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'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.
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.”
- LORENZO DE MEDICI
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.
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.
|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.|
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."
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.
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".
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
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.