Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449-1492) aggiungi alla cartella

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Lorenzo di Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, known as il Magnifico

Florence, 1 January 1449 - Careggi (Florence), 8 April 1492

banker; lord of Florence


Biographical information:
Youth, early political activity, marriage
Lorenzo il Magnifico was born in Florence in 1449 to Piero il Gottoso de’ Medici and Lucrezia Tornabuoni.. His mother, a cultivated woman and a poet, played a very important role in the cultural education of Lorenzo. His tutors included leading humanists and philosophers such as Gentile Becchi, Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino and Giovanni Agiropulo.
While he was still a youth, Lorenzo took a leading role in public and official events, since his father Piero launched him in political life from an early age.
At the age of just five, Lorenzo was presented to Duke John of Anjou as heir to the fortunes of the dynasty. In 1459, at the age of just ten, he took part in the celebrations organised in honour of Galeazzo Maria Sforza who was visiting Florence and was a guest in Palazzo Medici. In 1465 he was sent to Milan to attend the wedding of Alfonso of Aragon and Ippolita Maria Sforza. The following year he visited Pope Paul II in Rome and Ferdinando I of Aragon in Naples as the representative of Piero il Gottoso, with a view to establishing fruitful diplomatic relations with the two rulers.
Meanwhile, the attempt on the life of Piero il Gottoso organised in 1466 by Alessandro Acciaioli, Niccolò Sederini, Luca Pitti and Dietisalvi Neroni, although it had been foiled and ended with the exile of the organisers, was clear evidence of the difficult position of the Medici and the decline in their consensus. At the same time, Florence was also attracting the hostility of other Italian cities such as Venice, Ferrara and Rimini, which were threatening the borders of the state.
In 1469 Lorenzo married Clarice Orsini, who belonged to an influential family of the Roman aristocracy. The marriage was arranged through the intermediation of Giovanni Tornabuoni, Lucrezia’s brother and Lorenzo’s uncle, who lived in Rome where he managed the Medici bank.

Heir of Piero il Gottoso
When Piero died on 2 December of the same year, Tommaso Soderini persuaded the leading Florentine families to a sort of agreement that confirmed Piero’s heirs, Lorenzo and his younger brother Giuliano, the leadership in the Signoria and the power that had been in the hands of their father and grandfather before them. In reality, in view of the tender age of the two Medici brothers, the Florentine nobles hoped to achieve an oligarchic form of government in which the various families could emerge.
Lorenzo entered the Balìa (the extraordinary legislative assembly) and was admitted to the Consiglio dei Cento, the Council of One Hundred. In 1470 Florence thwarted an attempted coup by a number of Florentine outlaws who had occupied the city of Prato. Lorenzo rapidly made important diplomatic achievements. On 8 July 1470 he obtained confirmation of the pact between Milan and Naples, both allies and supporters of the Medici. In Florence in July 1471 he obtained from the Balìa the exclusion of his personal enemies and those suspected of being such from the lists of those who could be elected to public office (among those excluded were the Pazzi); the result was a strengthening of Lorenzo’s political position.
Commanding a broad sphere of action and occupying a position of great prestige, Lorenzo proceeded in the mediation between Milan and Naples, which were once again in conflict. In 1471, in the capacity of official ambassador of the Florentine Republic, he went in person to Rome to pay homage to the new Pope
Sixtus IV della Rovere, with whom he attempted to install good relations. Sixtus assigned the task of sustaining the impoverished papal coffers to the Medici bank, and hence appointed Lorenzo as papal treasurer, entrusting him the office of Apostolic Treasurer. Lorenzo in his turn asked the Pope to elect his brother Giuliano cardinal.
There was however no shortage of internal strife. In 1472 Volterra rebelled to obtain independence from the Florentine Signoria, and Lorenzo sent the army to repress the revolt. He then went to Volterra to organise the works of reconstruction, ordering the construction of a fortress to keep the population under control.

The Pazzi Conspiracy
Despite his efforts however, relations between Lorenzo de’ Medici and Sixtus IV rapidly broke down. In fact the Magnifico sent the Florentine forces to oppose the papal army engaged in the conquest of Imola and Faenza in Romagna on behalf of the Pope’s nephews Pietro and Girolamo Riario (1473), and in the siege of Città di Castello (1474) under the government of Niccolò Vitelli. Sixtus IV then revoked the office of treasurer entrusted to Lorenzo, and appointed Francesco Salviati, a relative of the Pazzi, archbishop of Pisa with a view to later making him archbishop of Florence.
To address the situation, Lorenzo created a league between Florence, Venice and Milan (2 November 1474). The King of Naples, who was not in agreement, allied with Siena against the Medici city. Then, when Galeazzo Maria Sforza died, Florence also lost the support of Milan.
In a scenario marked by tension, conflict and feeble alliances, Girolamo Riario, the Pazzi, the archbishop of Pisa and other Florentine families hatched a plot against Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, with the support of Sixtus IV. The Republic ofSiena, Ferrante of Aragon, King of Naples, and Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, were ready to lend their support to the entry of the papal troops into Florence.
On 26 April 1478 the Pazzi Conspiracy was played out in the Duomo of Florence. But the attempt was a failure: while Giuliano died of the stab wounds, Lorenzo although wounded managed to escape to safety, and was then able to address the situation with the help of the Signoria. The Pope reacted to the thwarting of the conspiracy by excommunicating Lorenzo and setting Florence under interdict, also declaring war on Florence with the collaboration of the King of Naples. Despite not being able to rely on the support of his traditional allies, Lorenzo managed to avert the serious threat posed by the war by resorting to diplomatic channels; he went to Naples in person to convince the king to withdraw from the league with the Pope (December 1479). After King Ferdinando of Aragon finally agreed with the Magnifico and withdrew his troops (6 March 1480), Sixtus IV too renounced the war and withdrew the interdict and the excommunication.
When he returned from the Neapolitan mission, Lorenzo was hailed in triumph as a saviour. The fortunate outcome consolidated the position of the Magnifico and gave renewed impetus to his diplomatic action.
Lorenzo then took advantage of the favourable situation to establish a new Council of 70 members (1480), an assembly that held office for five years that could be re-elected, set directly under his own control, and made up of persons of proven Medici sympathies, with powers greater than those of all the other magistracies.
All the ensuing conspiracy attempts were thwarted, such as that perpetrated by the Frescobaldi in 1481, ending in a death sentence, and that of Baldinotti Baldinotto, who was then killed by the infuriated mob in Pistoia in 1485.

The balance of power in Italian politics
From this time on, Lorenzo developed a foreign policy aimed at maintaining equilibrium and peace between the Italian states: consequently the Magnifico became the figure who could “tip the scales” of Italian politics.
With determination, Lorenzo managed to hold fast the the newly restored alliance between Milan and Naples.
In the War of Ferrara (1482-1484) he succeeded in dissuading Louis XI of France from taking to the field in aid of Venice.
In the Barons’ War (1485-1486) he took sides with Ferdinando of Aragon, despite the disapproval of the Florentines. By dint of intensive negotiations he managed to convince Pope Innocent VIII Cybo to make peace.
He entered the graces of the latter, to the extent that he arranged the marriage between his daughter
Maddalena and Franceschetto Cybo, the Pope’s nephew, in 1487. At the same time he also restored friendly relations with the Orsini, to whom he was related on the side of his wife Clarice, and organised another strategic match between his son Piero and Alfonsina Orsini.
In 1489, after hefty inputs into the papal coffers and major political pressure, Lorenzo succeeded in obtaining the cardinal’s robes for his second son, Giovanni, who had already been launched on an ecclesiastical career.
As a consequence, relations with the Pope became very close, to the extent that Lorenzo became one of the most trusted advisers of Innocent VIII. Taking advantage of this position, in the role of mediator in the conflicts in the papal territories, the Magnifico frequently managed to swing affairs in favour of his own interests, as in the case of Romagna, following the assassination of Girolamo Riario, lord of Imola and Forlì, and Galeotto Manfredi, lord of Faenza in 1488. In Perugia he supported the lordship of the Baglioni in 1490.
He also drew in the reins on control of the Tuscan territories, even where the dominion of Florence had not yet reached. In 1484 Florence he conquered Pietrasanta and in 1487 Sarzana. Moreover, the Magnifico also succeeded in consolidating amicable relations with Lucca and in establishing a permanent representative in Siena (1489).
In 1489 Lorenzo attempted to heal the rift that had developed between the Pope and the King of Naples regarding the immunity of the barons and the feudal toll, proposing an agreement that was accepted by both parties in 1492.
But while he was working on the reconciliation between Rome and Naples, Lorenzo became aware of the gradual dissolution of the alliance with Milan. In effect, the Signoria of the Sforza was attempting to expand its possessions in Romagna, Versilia and Lunigiana, representing a threat for Florence. Moreover, Ludovico il Moro was turning to the France of Charles VIII for support.

Lorenzo il Magnifico died on 8 April 1492 in the Villa di Careggi. At his bedside were Agnolo Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola. In the preceding days he had also been visited by Girolamo Savonarola, summoned to Florence by Lorenzo himself, who had become Prior of San Marco.
The body of the Magnifico was displayed in the church of San Marco, after which it was moved to the premises of the confraternity of the Magi and transported to San Lorenzo where the funeral was celebrated.
His tomb can now be seen in the New Sacristy designed by Michelangelo.
On the day the Magnifico died a bolt of lightning struck the golden ball on the cupola of the Duomo, and the event was interpreted as an omen of disaster.
The political equilibrium of Italy, which Lorenzo had pursued with such tenacity and acumen, began to reveal the first cracks that were soon to lead to arrival in Italy of the army of Charles VIII. Meanwhile, in Florence Girolamo Savonarola attracted increasingly larger crowds with sermons that announced apocalyptic events and exhorted the people to return to the rigorous path of faith.

Lorenzo the writer
Lorenzo il Magnifico was one of the leading figures in the cultural life of fifteenth-century Florence, to which he made a first-hand contribution as a writer. In general, Lorenzo tended to mediate the literary trends of his time, interpreting the contemporary tastes of Florentine society in an extensive and eclectic literary corpus made up of poems and prose in the vernacular.
From his very first compositions, dating to prior to 1469, Lorenzo revealed two different modes of writing poetry: one, that of the Rime, was directly inspired by the approaches of Petrarch and theStilnovo, while the other was realistic and jocular, with rustic accents. The latter style can be recognised in works influenced by the art of Luigi Pulci, the poet who best represented the merry band that gravitated around Lorenzo, characterised by literary works of popular taste. Belonging to this manner are the two novellas Giacoppo and Ginevra, the first a story of jests and licentious amours inspired by Boccaccio and the second, unfinished, of a more sentimental slant. In addition to these there are three short burlesque poems that reveal the author’s skills as a lively portraitist: the Simposio in triplets, a playful call to muster of several renowned Florentine drunkards (“beoni”), the Uccellagione di starne in 45 octaves, a burlesque, caricatured description of a day’s hunting, and the Nencia da Barberino, possibly the Magnifico’s masterpiece, a deft and playful parody of a rustic romance.
In the following years, after he had entered fully into public life following the death of his father (1469), up to 1484 Lorenzo wrote works inspired by Neoplatonism and Marsilio Ficino. Recurrent topics are the aspiration towards spiritual life and the condemnation of earthly goods. Fitting into this category are the philosophical dialogue of the Altercazione in triplets (1473-1474), the religion-based 7 Capitoli, the unfinished Comento (1481-1484), in which Lorenzo provides a commentary on forty-one of the most representative sonnets of his amorous Canzoniere in a Neoplatonic key.
In 1476-1477 he penned the Raccolta aragonese, an anthology of ancient Italian poems which he sent as a gift to Federico of Aragon, son of King Ferdinando, with a dedicatory letter by Agnolo Poliziano.
After 1484, in a period of strict classicism, Lorenzo was greatly influenced by Poliziano. Inspired by the intellectual are several mythological poems in the vernacular (Corinto, Apollo e Pan, Ambra) and the Selve, amorous digressions in octaves derived from the Silvae. In this phase there emerges a profound melancholy, which together with an ever-present sense of precariousness was to persist through to the very last works of the Magnifico.
Lorenzo’s most mature literary activity was predominantly of a religious character. In fact he composed the Rappresentazione di San Giovanni e Paolo, which was performed in February 1491, and the Laudi, composed for Holy Week of the same year. Like these works, the Canzoni a ballo and Canti carnascialeschi were composed to meet the tastes of the Florentine public. Among the Canti carnascialeschi, derived from the Carnival masquerades, particularly famous is the Canzona di Bacco (or Trionfo di Bacco e Arianna) composed in 1490: belonging to this is the melancholic “Quant’è bella giovinezza”.

Lorenzo as patron
Lorenzo il Magnifico is the most famous artistic patron of the Italian Renaissance. He left his mark on the culture and art of his time not so much as a direct commissioner but rather as an “arbiter of taste” (Gombrich 1960, ed. 1973, p. 78), promoting the figurative, literary and musical arts within the framework of his own political design aimed at consolidating his personal power and that of the family.
He gathered around himself an entourage of cultivated, elegant and sophisticated connotations, which however never took on the authentic appearance of a princely court. In fact, he tended to restrict the close circle to his direct collaborators, chancellors and political representatives. He loved to enlist such assistants personally, as he did the other consultants, masters, intellectuals, architects and artists assigned to public roles and celebratory enterprises. In the same way, Lorenzo personally superintended the studio generale of Pisa, the university, which was set up in 1472. Moreover he promoted Agnolo Poliziano from the position of private chancellor to that of tutor to the Medici household.
By publicly offering opinions and advice, Lorenzo fostered an intense relation of exchange between the artists and intellectuals of his circle, which is clearly illustrated, for example, by comparison of the works of Botticelli, Bertoldo, Michelangelo, Poliziano, Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. At the same time he also fostered the celebration of the artists and intellectuals belonging to the history of Florence, such as Dante and Giotto.
He also encouraged the intellectual debate on architecture, to the extent that in 1485 the editio princeps of Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria was dedicated to him. His favourite architect was Giuliano da San Gallo, whom he commissioned to build the church and monastery for the Observant Augustinians (later destroyed) and the Villa of Poggio a Caiano. No public enterprise was launched in Florence without the approval or the supervision of the Magnifico. It is to him that we owe the idea of the reconstruction of the district of San Giovanni, with a new Medici palazzo in via Laura, although the project was never carried through. It was Lorenzo who proposed Sangallo for the construction of the Sacristy of Santo Spirito. In 1491, following pressure from the Magnifico, a competition was announced for the construction of a new facade for the Duomo, although this was never actually built. Moreover, from the end of the 1480s new laws sustained by Lorenzo encouraged building development and the construction of important private mansions, such as those of Filippo Strozzi and Bartolomeo Scala, influenced by Laurentian concepts.
Like his forbears, Lorenzo continued to look upon the church of San Lorenzo and its complex, just a stone’s throw from Palazzo Medici, with particular interest and attention. For the church, he and his brother Giuliano commissioned from Verrocchio the tomb of Piero and Giovanni de’ Medici (1469-1472).
The Magnifico encouraged the collection of rare and precious antiquities and curiosities, and engaged personally in a tireless and unprejudiced manner in the collecting, in particular, of gems, cameos, vases in semi-precious stones, statues in marble and other outstanding pieces which were brought together in the family collections in Palazzo Medici, where they were also proudly displayed to the most illustrious guests. He also paid particular attention to the collection of books, setting up the fundamental basis for the future Biblioteca Laurenziana. To identify and foster new talents in which he could invest money and energy, Lorenzo opened the sculpture garden in Piazza San Marco, entrusting it to the care of his friend Bertoldo: the young artists - including Michelangelo - were able to enter freely and to compare notes and try their hands at copying the fine archaeological pieces set at disposal by Lorenzo.
Lorenzo’s strong personality also influenced the preferences of other commissioners and patrons, even beyond the confines of Florence. Lorenzo encouraged the commissioning of the Cenotaph of Niccolò Forteguerri in the Duomo of Pistoia from Andrea Verrocchio (1476) and the basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato from Giuliano da Sangallo (1485). From the 1480s on, after Florence had drawn up peace treaties with the Papal State and the Kingdom of Naples, Lorenzo sent the best Florentine artists to various important Italian courts, frequently accompanied by letters of presentation from himself: for example, he sent Leonardo to the Sforza in Milan (1481), Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Piero and Antonio Pollaiolo to Rome, Giuliano da Maiano to the Duke of Calabria in Naples (1484), and Filippino Lippi to Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, again in Rome (1488). Furthermore, he exploited supreme works of art as diplomatic gifts, such as the design of a palazzo executed by Sangallo sent to the King of Naples and two marble reliefs showing Darius and Alexander executed by Verrocchio which were sent to the King of Hungary. These gifts, like the introductions of the artists, were intended to enhance the prestige of the Magnifico’s political position and his fame.
The public feasts, both religious and profane, also paid an important role in Lorenzo’s Florence. Verrocchio and Botticelli were frequently employed in the creation of decorative apparatus and standards for the jousts and courtly games that were organised in the streets and squares of the city.
On the other hand, Lorenzo cultivated his private interests in the elegant suburban residences, sites of sophisticated evasion surrounded by an artfully redesigned nature, appointed to embody the yearning for a classical ideal of rural life. Emblematic of these was the Villa of Poggio a Caiano, “Lorenzo’s whim” and the most important of his architectural commissions (c. 1480), conceived in line with “antique” modules by Giuliano da Sangallo. Then, around 1487 the Magnifico appointed Botticelli, Perugino, Filippino and Ghirlandaio to execute a cycle of frescoes in the Villa di Spedaletto in the vicinity of Volterra. From Verrocchio he commissioned the bronze David that he and Giuliano then sold to the Republic and the Putto Holding a Dolphin for theVilla of Careggi, where Lorenzo liked to bring together the so-called Accademia Platonica.
In general, therefore, Lorenzo il Magnifico imposed a precise direction on the intellectual and cultural context within which, in little more than a decade, the arts and sciences evolved with an unparalleled technical expertise. Nevertheless, at times Lorenzo’s cultural choices appear contradictory: his personal predilections differed from those dictated by public requirements and the continuity of the family tradition ran counter to the demands for innovation. Moreover, a certain ambiguity in Lorenzo’s elusive character was already noted by Niccolò Machiavelli, who in the Storie fiorentine wrote: “… whoever considers this gravity and cheerfulness, will find united in him dispositions which seem almost incompatible with each other.” (The History of Florence by Niccolò Machiavelli, The University of Adelaide Library Electronic Texts Collection, Derived from a Universal Classics Library edition, published in 1901 by W. Walter Dunne, New York and London. The translator was not named, ch. VII.)

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