Lorenzo de' Medici

Lorenzo de' Medici
Lorenzo de Medici.jpg
Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino at the Uffizi, Florence
Lord of Florence
Reign2 December 1469 – 8 April 1492
PredecessorPiero the Gouty
SuccessorPiero the Unfortunate
Full name
Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici
Born1 January 1449
Florence, Republic of Florence
Died8 April 1492 (aged 43)
Careggi, Republic of Florence
Noble familyMedici
Spouse(s)Clarice Orsini
Issue
FatherPiero the Gouty
MotherLucrezia Tornabuoni
SignatureLorenzo de' Medici.svg

Lorenzo de' Medici (Italian pronunciation: [loˈrɛntso de ˈmɛːditʃi], 1 January 1449 – 8 April 1492)[1] was an Italian statesman, de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic and the most powerful and enthusiastic patron of Renaissance culture in Italy.[2][3][4] Also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo il Magnifico [loˈrɛntso il maɲˈɲiːfiko]) by contemporary Florentines, he was a magnate, diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets. As a patron, he is best known for his sponsorship of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo. He held the balance of power within the Italic League, an alliance of states that stabilized political conditions on the Italian peninsula for decades, and his life coincided with the mature phase of the Italian Renaissance and the Golden Age of Florence.[5] The Peace of Lodi of 1454 that he helped maintain among the various Italian states collapsed with his death. He is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.

Youth

Lorenzo's grandfather, Cosimo de' Medici, was the first member of the Medici family to lead the Republic of Florence and run the Medici Bank simultaneously. As one of the wealthiest men in Europe, Cosimo spent a very large portion of his fortune on government and philanthropy, for example as a patron of the arts and financier of public works.[6] Lorenzo's father, Piero di Cosimo de' Medici, was equally at the centre of Florentine civic life, chiefly as an art patron and collector, while Lorenzo's uncle, Giovanni di Cosimo de' Medici, took care of the family's business interests. Lorenzo's mother, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, was a writer of sonnets and a friend to poets and philosophers of the Medici Academy.[7] She became her son's advisor after the deaths of his father and uncle.[6]

Lorenzo, considered the most promising of the five children of Piero and Lucrezia, was tutored by a diplomat and bishop, Gentile de' Becchi, and the humanist philosopher Marsilio Ficino,[8] and he was trained in Greek by John Argyropoulos.[9] With his brother Giuliano, he participated in jousting, hawking, hunting, and horse breeding for the Palio, a horse race in Siena. In 1469, aged 19, he won first prize in a jousting tournament sponsored by the Medici. The joust was the subject of a poem written by Luigi Pulci.[10] Niccolò Machiavelli also wrote of the occasion, perhaps sarcastically, that he won "not by way of favour, but by his own valour and skill in arms".[11] He carried a banner painted by Verrocchio, and his horse was named Morello di Vento.[12][13]

Piero sent Lorenzo on many important diplomatic missions when he was still a youth, including trips to Rome to meet the pope and other important religious and political figures.[14]

Lorenzo was described as rather plain of appearance and of average height, having a broad frame and short legs, dark hair and eyes, a squashed nose, short-sighted eyes and a harsh voice. Giuliano, on the other hand, was regarded as handsome and a "golden boy", and was used as a model by Botticelli in his painting of Mars and Venus.[15] Even Lorenzo's close friend Niccolo Valori described him as homely, saying, "nature had been a stepmother to him in regards to his personal appearance, although she had acted as a loving mother in all things concocted with the mind. His complexion was dark, and although his face was not handsome it was so full of dignity as to compel respect."[16]

Paintings by Botticelli that use the Medici family as models
Madonna of the Magnificat shows Lucrezia de' Medici as the Madonna surrounded by her children, with Lorenzo holding a pot of ink.
The Adoration of the Magi includes several generations of the Medici family and their retainers. Sixteen-year-old Lorenzo is to the left, with his horse, prior to his departure on a diplomatic mission to Milan.