Medici, Lorenzo de' 1449–1492 Florentine Statesman and Author

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Medici, Lorenzo de'
Florentine statesman
and author

Lorenzo de' Medici, also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, was a member of the wealthy and powerful Medici family of Florence, Italy. From 1469 until his death he managed the affairs of the Florentine republic* while strengthening the position of his family. He also took a keen interest in the intellectual and artistic activities of Renaissance Florence.

Political Career. Lorenzo was the grandson of Cosimo de' Medici (1389–1464), who had been Florence's leading citizen two generations earlier. As international bankers and statesmen, the Medici possessed both money and connections with many noble and royal houses. From an early age Lorenzo was groomed for political leadership. Florence had a republican government, but Lorenzo was treated as a prince. After his father's death in 1469, members of the Medici political party asked Lorenzo to take on the leadership of the city-state. Although Lorenzo never served on the city council, he belonged to many important committees and governing bodies and wielded enormous influence. He controlled the city more by arranging for his supporters to fill government positions than by holding public office himself.

Lorenzo's growing personal power, however, distressed other local leaders, including some within the Medici party. The Pazzi family, longtime Medici supporters, formed a plot against Lorenzo. In 1478 they managed to kill his brother Guiliano but only wounded Lorenzo slightly before he escaped. Pope Sixtus IV (reigned 1471–1484) also opposed Lorenzo, but on a larger scale. He sent an invading army into Tuscany, the region around Florence. Lorenzo was forced to turn to French allies for help, but he survived the crisis, made peace with the pope, and maintained control of Florence. He tried to ensure future good relations with the papacy* by marrying one of his daughters to the nephew of Pope Innocent VIII (reigned 1484–1492). Lorenzo's only shortcoming in promoting his family's interests was his management of the Medici bank. It suffered large losses in the 1480s and early 1490s.

Writer and Patron of the Arts. As an author, Lorenzo produced songs, a play, and poems. His poetry ranged from youthful verses in praise of country amusements to mature sonnets, a philosophical debate, and mythological poems. Lorenzo wrote his poetry in the Tuscan dialect, and he had strong ideas about the use of language. In the introduction to a collection of his sonnets, he declared that poets should write in their vernacular* languages. Lorenzo also encouraged the work of other writers, and was a friend and supporter of scholars such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Angelo Poliziano.

Lorenzo was a patron* of the arts as well. He commissioned works for public projects, such as Florentine churches, and for private ones, such as the decoration of his villas*. For one villa he purchased murals by Sandro Botticelli, Perugino, Filippino Lippi, and Domenico Ghirlandaio. For another he obtained two bronze statues by Andrea del Verrocchio. Lorenzo also sent major works as gifts to the kings of Naples and Hungary. Through his leadership of the city of Florence, as well as his writing and his support of the arts, Lorenzo the Magnificent earned a prominent place in Renaissance history.

(See alsoMedici, House of; Medici, Cosimo de'. )

* republic

form of Renaissance government dominated by leading merchants with limited participation by others

* papacy

office and authority of the pope

* vernacular

native language or dialect of a region or country

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer

* villa

luxurious country home and the land surrounding it

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Medici, Lorenzo de' 1449–1492 Florentine Statesman and Author

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Medici, Lorenzo de' 1449–1492 Florentine Statesman and Author