Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lorenzo The Magnificent

Lorenzo de Medici was born on January 1, 1449 in Florence, Italy. "Lorenzo il Magnifico"(Lorenzo The Magnificent), as he was called by the people of Florence, was a statesman, ruler,a politician, poet , the ruthless "boss of bosses" , the savior of needy and patron of the arts. "The Magnificent" was a common title of respect in Italy at the time, but it was Lorenzo who raised it to special status. Niccolo Machiavelli, the supreme theorist of power and politics called him "the greatest living person alive".His father Piero de Medici sponsored the arts and was a collector. His mother, Lucrezia, was a poet of sorts and mingled with the literati. Lorenzo was born at the time when his grandfather , Cosimo stood securely at the summit of Florentine politics.Thus Lorenzo was groomed for power and politics.He assumed the sole power in Florence and retained it until his own death in 1492.

Medici Family ruled Florence and later Tuscany, during most of the period from 1434 to 1737, except for two brief intervals (from 1494 to 1512 and from 1527 to 1530). It provided the church with four popes (Leo X,Clement VII,Pius IV, and Leon XI) and married into the royal families of Europe (most notably in France, in the persons of queens Catherine de Médicis and Marie de Médicis). 

  Lorenzo was not concerned with the banking much but he had a passion for arts and was quite well in politics.Medici were the greatest bankers of their age, and the Medici bank pioneered crucial aspects of modern finance. They were "foreign exchange dealers" who enacted a "transfiguration of finance", points out the financial historian Niall Ferguson. In 15th Century. Medici Bank became the largest bank in Europe and later Cosimo de Medici became Europe's richest man.When we look at Botticelli's Venus, we are looking at money.
Lorenzo de Medici. The greatest and the most loved of all Medicis and the one who made his  family name to be remembered by all. Machiavelli considered him to be the greatest man alive.
   Lorenzo was a poet and scholar, a master horseman and huntsman, a creditable dancer and musician, savior of the needy ,patron of arts , he was a consummate politician and a master of diplomacy, an influential ruler , a taste maker,promoter of Plato's philosophy,an important banker (though his heart wasn’t really in the family business) and above all, as Unger calls him, “the foremost statesman of the age”. 
Lorenzo while still 10 years of age was displayed by Medici as 'Master of  Ceremony',  in a lavish ceremony hosted by Medici ,attended by Kings and Princes from Italy and across Europe and including the Pope himself.As Lorenzo entered in his teen years he impressed those around him with his talent and driving energy.He was conversant in with literary classics and acquired other skills like horse riding, handling of arms, archery and playing the lyre. He not only studied mathematics and record keeping, but was instructed in the art of diplomacy. He was a personality of lights and darks, of fiercely pssionate friendships and equally passionate hatreds.Lorenzo once saved his father from assassination by his quick thinking and the plot against his father failed.While still in his youth he was given the title of Magnifico."Magnifico" title was given to Lorenzo because of his help to the needy people of Florence.

  Lorenzo's formal education was entrusted to his tutor Gentile Becchi, who was a priest and an amateur poet of more erudition than talent. With his tutor Lorenzo was able to learn the entire range of Classical literature from ancient literature to modern masters such as Dante.Florence was in 15th century the intellectual capital of Europe and Lorenzo took of unparalleled educational resources available.In 1458 he attended a course on poetry in University of Florence.Niccolo Valori wrote "Lorenzo was devoted to religion and to poor and those in need, he was so solicitous that none seeking help or charity were turned away". After Cosimo's death in 1464 there were many who wanted a republican Florence and enemies of Medici were plotting to get Florence out of their rule. Piero, Lorenzo's father was now in charge of the city but he was weak and was not active in politics and lacked the leadership skills to act as a ruler.But then there was Lorenzo, whom Niccolo Valori concluded as "worthy of being included among the rare miracle of nature". Even Lorenzo's enemies and critics admired that he had a brilliant and outstanding mind.
Lorenzo de Medici in "Journey of Magi" fresco , indeed within the Medici Palace this fresco is the statement of Lorenzo's extraordinary power. Lorenzo il Magnifico (in centre)is the boy in this fresco .Lorenzo is portrayed as a supreme authority in this fresco or one with extraordinary power in Florence around the Kings and Royalties of Italy and the rest of the world. His authority is displayed here even when he was young and not the official leader of Medici family.It shows that he had leadership and other qualities while in his youth which were observed by Cosimo and which Lorenzo proved later in future.
The fissures that had begun to appear from both people and leaders of Florence in months since Cosimo's death made it urgent for Medici to make new alliance with Duke of Milan and Pope. Piero  sent Lorenzo to meet Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan and the Pope.After Lorenzo's few visits Sforza's family got closer to the Medici the prime reason was that Venice wanted to take over Milan and so the Duke was in need of alliance himself.Pope Paul being a Venetian came to know of Medici's new ties with Milan and so no favorable results were received by Lorenzo after meeting the Pope.With a firm allaince with Milan Lorenzo returned home confidently.

Since Cosimo's death the Pitti family were angling for top position in Signoria (the town hall of Florence).Pitti's leadership of anti-Medici faction was confirmed when oath appeared along with 400  fellow citizens pledging to work towards democratic reforms(elections). After few months the election took place and Piero won.Later on the Lorenzo's art of diplomacy , genius and his charismatic personality turned Lucca Pitti into a friend.After this Lorenzo became not only the right-hand man of his father but also the leading spokesman of Florence.Lorenzo married Clarice Orsini, daughter of Giacomo Orsini on 7th February 1469.

 Piero died on Dec. 5, 1469 due to gout, and two days later the 20-year-old Lorenzo was asked by a delegation of eminent citizens to take control of the state. This he did, ruling as his father and grandfather had done, from behind the scenes and without holding any public office.Lorenzo enhanced the prestige and stability of his house when he came to an agreement with Pope Sixtus IV in 1471 by which the Medici would continue to handle the papal finances. And in 1472 he won the hearts of all Florentines by saving the city from an imminent famine. When the bad harvest of that year threatened the population with disaster, it was Lorenzo who imported large amounts of grain.

“How beautiful is youth, that is always slipping away! Whoever wants to be happy, let him be so: about tomorrow there’s no knowing.”

Pazzi Conspiracy and Aftermath
Although it was a maxim of Medici policy to retain close ties with the Holy See, relations between Lorenzo and Pope Sixtus were not always cordial.Pazzi and the Salviati families hated Medici family as well partly because of the success of Medici Bank and rising power and fame of Medici family in Florence and throughout Italy. The Pontiff was very displeased when Lorenzo's diplomacy achieved an alliance between Florence, Venice, and Milan, for such a combination was more than a match for the armies of the Church. Sixtus felt thwarted in his ambitions to expand the papal territory and uneasy about the safety of what the Church already held. His hostility grew when he learned that Lorenzo was trying to buy the town of Imola, which was strategically important. Consequently the Pope agreed to a plot designed to rid Florence of both Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano.In 1478 the conspiracy of the Pazzi (with alliance of Salviati family) nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Medici.The chief conspirators were the Pazzi family, a rival banking house and bitter enemies of the Medici. 

 The plan was to assassinate the two brothers at a moment when their guard would be down, during the celebration of Mass on Easter Sunday, April 26, 1478. Bernardo Baroncelli actually struck the first blow on the Pazzi conspiracy’s big day, planting a dagger in the chest of Giuliano di Piero de’ Medici in the theatrical setting of Florence’s Duomo, with the theatrical declaration, “Here, traitor!” Giuliano was slain, but Lorenzo escaped with wounds. Bernardo Baroncelli and Francesco Pazzi charged at Giuliano de' Medici, and stabbed him multiple times, killing him .They also stabbed Lorenzo de' Medici, however only were able to injure Lorenzo.

Giuliano wound up dead, but the rest didn’t work out so well.Baroncelli, however, managed to evade the resulting paroxysm of civic vengeance and hightail it to Ottoman Istanbul, where he had some contacts.Unfortunately for Bernardo, Florence had some contacts there, too. Ottoman relations with the various Italian city-states were actually quite strong, and Florence in particular enjoyed lucrative trade arrangements bringing its wool textiles to Bursa to exchange for silk.A Florentine representative quickly sailed for the Ottoman capital to make the arrangements, and returned with the hated Bandini on Dec. 24. Five days later, he was hanged over the side of the Bargello.The people of Florence rallied to the Medici standard and visited a terrible retribution on the hapless conspirators, most of whom did not survive the day. The conspirators were thrown from the window of Palazzo Vecchio. Francesco de' Pazzi was hung to the third window of the Loggia dei Lanzi and also Francesco Salviati, his brother Jacopo , Bernardo Baroncelli and other priests conspirators suffered the same fate.

1478 Sketch by Leonardo depicting the hanging of Pazzi Conspirator, Giuliano's Assassin-Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli.

The result of the conspiracy caused Lorenzo to get a firmer hold upon the state.The events of the Pazzi Conspiracy had shown Lorenzo in a favorable light. Driven to utmost fury by the collapse of the Conspiracy and the heightened public support for the Medicis, Pope Sixtus IV now drew up an ecclesiastical censure against Florence,he called for troops to be sent to Florence to eliminate the Medici family , withdrawing sacraments and the right to a Christian burial from all Florentine citizens. He also excommunicated Lorenzo. This had little effect and so, forming a military alliance with King Ferrantes of Naples, the Pope began planning an attack on Florence. The traditional Medici allies in Milan and Bologna were reluctant to help them fight the Pope, and a certain disaster seemed likely.
        Bust of Lorenzo de Medici

The Pope, enraged, excommunicated Lorenzo and placed an interdict on the city. In 1479, in the midst of unbearable tension, Sixtus and King Ferrante (Ferdinand) of Naples declared war on Florence. Lorenzo, knowing that the safety of his city and his dynasty were at stake, undertook the most hazardous adventure of his colorful career. It was averted only by Lorenzo's brilliant tact. Switching effortlessly from avenger to peace-maker, he personally traveled to Naples along with powerful Florentine friends to confer with the King,virtually placing his life in the hands of the King and an understanding was achieved without resorting to war. Ferrante was won over by Lorenzo's charm,hard cash,political skills , diplomacy and his persuasive argument that it would not do for Italy to be divided or Florence destroyed. Lorenzo returned to Florence with the gift of peace and was received with great joy. Sixtus was bitter but grudgingly bowed to necessity and in 1480 made peace. Lorenzo's control over Florence and its possessions would not be challenged again. From then on Lorenzo became known as the Savior of Florence. 

Painting showing Pope Sixtus IV making peace with the Florentine legates.The angered Italian Princes of Rome and Milan allied with Lorenzo to force Sixtus IV to make peace, to his great annoyance.

A new constitution in 1480 simplified the structure of Florentine government. The Signory, or executive branch, chose 30 citizens, who in turn selected 40 more, all to serve for life in a new council. Hence forward all other branches, including the Signory, were responsible to this permanent Council of Seventy. Since the council was filled with Lorenzo's adherents, the effect of the constitutional change was to make his tyranny more obvious. Under this rule the prosperity of Florence grew, primarily through banking and commerce. Not the least of Lorenzo's contributions to this prosperity was the peace which his diplomacy, from 1480 until his death, maintained between Florence and the rest of Italy.

Cultural Life
The private fortune of the Medici did not fare so well under Lorenzo's management as did the economy of Florence. This is attributable to the fact that he tended to neglect business, so preoccupied was he with diplomatic and cultural concerns. It is not accidental that the last decade of his life coincided with the period of Florence's greatest artistic contributions to the Renaissance. He paid with a lavish hand the painters Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Fra Filippo Lippi to add beauty to the city. The humanist John Lascaris and the poet Angelo Poliziano traveled great distances at the behest and the expense of Lorenzo in search of manuscripts to enlarge the Medici libraries. What could not be bought was copied, and Lorenzo permitted the scribes of other eager book collectors to copy from his stores. When Poliziano and others scorned the new invention of printing from movable type, Lorenzo had the foresight to recognize its value and encourage its use. The famous Platonic Academy frequently met at Lorenzo's palace, where in lively philosophic discussions the ruler was quite the equal of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Michelangelo, and Marsilio Ficino. The University of Pisa owes it revival to Lorenzo.

Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de' Medici.
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of this impressive man, whose of the arts, whose implementation of balance of power, his support and unmatched impact on the world of art and whose passion for learning truly earned him the title "Lorenzo the Magnificent."
Art could hardly have found a more liberal patron in Lorenzo de' Medici than in his forbears, but he may have been a more enlightened one, having more of the artistic temperament, and being moreover a man who could impress others with his own ideas.The attention to landscape and the growth of fancy to be noticed in the Florentine art of the later years of the century have been attributed to him and doubtless much of the prevailing prosperity of the city was due to the ardor with which he encouraged new arts, such as engraving on copper and on stones and gems, carving, the revival of mosaic, and the inlaying of wood and metal. Perhaps Lorenzo's greatest contribution to history was his patronage of the arts.Lorenzo de' Medici made vast additions to the Medici collection of antiques. One of his finest enterprises was the opening of his garden alongside San Marco as a kind of school for artists. Here he displayed all his treasures of ancient carvings, and statues, together with designs by the best masters, and welcomed every student of any promise, of whom, as all the world knows, Michelangelo was one.These all sat at his table in company, on a perfect equality with his other guests. Bertoldo, Donatello' s pupil, was the custodian of the school, and he and Verrocchio repaired, completed and preserved all the priceless collection. Lorenzo de Medici was the one who discovered the genius of Michelangelo at age of 15 and he trained the young Michelangelo at the training gardens built by Lorenzo de Medici and all his life remained close to Lorenzo de Medici.

Statue of Lorenzo de Medici at the Uffizi Gallery, on the facade of the Gallery building.

  Lorenzo, in fact, can lay as definitive a claim to the epithet ‘Renaissance man’ as his contemporary (and employee) Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (young Michelangelo worked for him, too). He was a poet and scholar, a master horseman and huntsman, a creditable dancer and musician, savior of the needy ,patron of arts , he was a consummate politician and a master of diplomacy, an influential ruler , a taste maker,an important banker (though his heart wasn’t really in the family business), the "boss of bosses" and, above all, as Unger calls him, “the foremost statesman of the age”. Magnifico is a top title in Italian Culture invented for Lorenzo because of his generosity towards the city of Florence as a patron of arts.
Lorenzo treated the artists under his protection with respect and warm-hearted familiarity.Lorenzo was a poet himself,he contributed more than anyone to the flowering of Florentine genius in the late 15th century and supported the work of such Renaissance masters as Botticelli, Raphael,Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (whom the Medicis commissioned to complete their family tombs in Florence).Some say that if Lorenzo was not present we might not be able to see artists like Michelangelo , Leonardo or Raphael.

The prodigious feats of patronage touched upon here, as valuable as they are, are secondary in the scale of Lorenzo's accomplishments. It is not too much to say that Lorenzo, with his verses in the vernacular, elevated Tuscan Italian to the dignity and respect it had known in Dante's time, before the humanists buried it under mounds of classical Latin. He promoted Greek philosophy and rose awareness of Aristotle and Plato's philosophy in Florence. Although his friend Poliziano still favored Latin, Lorenzo composed Italian poetry not inferior to anything written in his time. His canti carnascialeschi (carnival songs) are still read with pleasure.Lorenzo was not an attractive man physically. He had a heavy face with a large flat nose and a swarthy complexion. He was tall and robust and given to athletic exertions. His dignity, charm, and wit lay in his manner rather than his appearance. Physical shortcomings and a reputation for personal and commercial immorality, however, did not prevent him from being loved and admired.

Florence was a state where powerful families competed with each other in order to rule.So to be a leader one must have to be ruthless otherwise he will never be able to succeed.Lorenzo was in fact the first man to use diplomacy and avoided conflicts and though when required he was ruthless as well. 

 In 1471 Lorenzo de Medici calculated that since 1434, his family had spent some 663,000 florins (approx. 460 million USD today) for charity, buildings and taxes. He wrote," I do not regret this for though many would consider it better to have a part of that sum in their purse, I consider it to have been a great honour to our state, and I think the money was well-expended and I am well-pleased."

Portrait of Lorenzo il Magnifico or "Lorenzo The Magnificent" by Giorgio Vasari.

Lorenzo de Medici is very much a Nietzschean Übermensch(though Nietzsche only claimed Cesare (Roman) to be closest to his ideal Ubermensch )as he was a Machiavellian politician , ruthless warrior, aristocrat ,scholar,poet and artist, master of diplomacy,foremost statesman of his time, patron of arts(he himself paid for Italian Renaissance art), helper of poor people, an influential ruler and for what he did alone justifies that he was of higher biological type/drive. He surely had good and evil side... his good side was to help needy people of Florence, spread the philosophy of Plato and was an educationalist , patron of arts and scholars.His evil side was his ruthlessness to scare his enemies , his tactics to rule and maintain his control and he was Machiavellian who used deception and manipulation for 'personal' gain(this personal gain was for betterment of people of Florence) .His mastery of diplomacy suggests that he had mastered all spectrum of human spectrum. Lorenzo also protected artists and scholars like Nietzsche suggests.

"Journey of Magi" fresco in Palazzo Medici painted by Benozzo Gozzoli.One of the best fresco ever painted.

As compared with Cosimo, whose buildings have remained, and have made the city what she is, he was rather the inspirer of artists than their patron. He had the gift of imposing his personality on others; they felt with his feeling, saw with his eyes, and his influence on the art of his time is more real, though more intangible, than that of his illustrious grandfather. But in the world of letters his position was wholly different: here indeed he sat with his peers. For the Medici, and for Lorenzo de' Medici in particular, the things of the mind were not an ornament, still less an accessory; they were a necessity of life, something vital. Setting aside his literary achievements to be considered later, as a lover and leader of learning he holds an honorable place.He was a great admirer of Plato and spread the teachings of Plato in Florence and throughout Italy. 

Lorenzo de' Medici's favourite artists among the galaxy that were then painting, were Filippo Lippi,Benozzo Gozzoli, Ghirlandaio ,especially, Botticelli and Michelangelo .Lorenzo privately requested Botticelli to produce of "Birth of Venus" and "Primavera". 


Primavera by Botticelli. Primavera along with Birth of Venus was commissioned by Lorenzo de' Medici for his country villa. Primavera was comissioned for the fourteen-year-old Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici.

Thus will the birds their brief silence break
singing here and there amongst the branches -
several for old nests seem to take
fresh straw, and tiny strands to weave.
Mushrooms hosted in the verdant meadows,
are chased by light-hearted women who
pick now these, now those.
Then the dormouse her sleep and home will quit
till evening comes, the cry of the owl with it.
And when a gentle breeze here be blowing
in sweet decree it bends the flowers to ground,
playf’lly around them spinning and swirling,
by turns, it ties, looses, binds as it bounds.
The tall grass, doomed to the scythe, is swaying
angrily falling down upon the mound;
in delicate notes the young bough answers
sweetly, nor falls to the ground any flower.
Amidst so many pleasant and fine things
my lady, very beautiful and kind,
surpassing th’others, all of them graces,
in her most diaphanous garment white.
Speaking in new and never uttered words,
her eyes to my heart, for her mouth is silent:
Come, she says to me, O my dear sweetheart,
here’s peace, fulfilment longed for by your heart.

Poem by Lorenzo de Medici

Lorenzo's book on Poems
Well equipped with Greek and Latin erudition, with a profound admiration for Dante and for Petrarca, and a firm belief in the future of the vernacular, he forwarded every private enterprise of intellectual value.Lorenzo de' Medici helped in the collecting of codices, in the encouragement of lectures, in the fostering of the University, and in the liberal help accorded to scholars. He needed such companionship as broadened the mind and sharpened the wits, and he always made it a companionship of equals; the wise, the witty, the frivolous, the artistic, the learned, each in turn contributed to him and he to them.Lorenzo at the height of Renaissance was the most powerful and respected person in Florence and also made his family name to to be written under the "aristocratic" families of Italy(before him Medici were known as bankers or merchants and he raised their status ).

It was in the circle of the Platonic Academy that Lorenzo de' Medici was most at home. He was steeped in Platonism; he had a strong vein of mysticism in his nature, which was too poetic to be satisfied with a material creed. He was neither sceptic nor materialist, and he had what many better man has not, the religious sense.Before he died, Lorenzo de' Medici received the last Sacraments with intense contrition and devotion. His chosen friends Pico and Poliziano attended him and those around him said that he died nobly, with all the patience, the reverence, the recognition of God which the best of holy men could show.

What Lorenzo the famous of all Medici is his love for art and his contribution to advancement of art world and the making of Florence the most beautiful city in the world.Lorenzo de Medici had all the money one can imagine, so had Cosimo de Medici(Richest man of Europe) but the guilt he removed from Medici family made him the jewel of Medici Family plus his spread of arts rather than seizing power made him the greatest ruler of Italy. 

Lorenzo died during the night of April 8 and 9, 1492 in the Villa of Careggi at the age of 43.Florentines were so moved by Lorenzo's premature death that the entire population attended his funeral.It is an undoubted fact that on his death bed Lorenzo de' Medici sent for Savonarola, saying that he knew no honest friar save him.Accounts of their final meeting differ. Some scholars speculate that in the end Savonarola remembered his duty as a priest, giving Lorenzo absolution for his sins. Others content that Savonarola's judgement was harsh, that he damned Lorenzo. According to Poliziano, who is surely a trustworthy witness, on that April day in 1492, when the sun of Lorenzo de' Medici set, Fra Girolamo Savonarola exhorted and blessed him, and, simply, departed.With his death, the center of the Italian Renaissance shifted from Florence to Rome, where it would remain for the next century and beyond.

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