- The joust of Lorenzo il Magnifico
- Protagonists :
- Medici: Lorenzo il Magnifico, Giuliano di Piero; Lucrezia Donati; Luigi Pulci.
- Epoch, date:
- Florence, Piazza Santa Croce
- Description and history :
Like every year at carnival time, in 1469 the Guelph Party organised the traditional joust in Piazza Santa Croce, appropriately decorated and enclosed. The participants in the event were young nobles from the leading Florentine families, as well as famous condottieri and foreign knights.
The joust of 7 February 1469 is documented by contemporary sources that describe it in detail, in particular, La giostra by Luigi Pulci and the anonymous Ricordo, transcribed by Pietro Fanfani.
In the “mostra” or parade that preceded the equestrian contest, the mounted participants with their respective corteges made up of damsels, grooms and trumpeters, flaunted apparel, harness, standards, arms and other objects of the most superb quality and precious workmanship.
The star of the joust was the young Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici who dedicated his victory to Lucrezia Donati, to whom the female figure portrayed on his standard may allude. On such occasions it was the practice for the youths to present their ladies with little “love” boxes, with allegorical images engraved on the lids. In one of these engravings for the so-called Piatti Otto, referred to the workshop of Maso di Finiguerra and showing a youth and a lady bearing an armillary sphere, the figures of Lorenzo and Lucrezia have been identified (London, British Museum). The context of his courtly amour for Lucrezia, the standard with the motto in Old French, the parade and jousting accoutrements of the knights, grooms and horses, the “onori” - that is the objects offered to the victors executed in late Gothic style - all evoked a chivalric culture that was still very much alive and deeply felt.
The accoutrements of Lorenzo and his ‘brigade’ or retinue, was valued at 10,000 florins. As a prize for his victory, the Magnifico received a silver helmet.
The colours of the livery of Lorenzo’s retinue were white and red (the scarlet “paonazzo”), added to which was the green of the “broncone” branch present in the liveries of some of the knights. The helmets of the mounted pages were surmounted with spangles and white, red and green feathers. Also white, red and green were the fringes of the barding of Giuliano’s horse, who himself was dressed in a sky-blue skirt embroidered with silver and pearls with ancient-style breastplate. Thus all the colours of the Medici devices were represented.
Lorenzo wore a jousting helmet with a crest of sky-blue feathers; he also had the habitual Lombard-style half-surcoat again of a deep sky blue with the fleurs de lys of the French king, who in 1465 had given him permission to use the coat-of-arms with his heraldic emblem; the breastplate was lined with cloth of the same colour, and his horse had two bards, these too with golden fleurs de lys.
The same device of the golden and silver fleurs de lys on a sky-blue ground adorned the gown of the damsel portrayed on the standard that was possibly painted by Andrea Verrocchio. This was divided into two sections, the upper part being white, with the sun, and the lower scarlet showing a rainbow. The female figure was shown standing in a meadow, close to a laurel bush with the branches withered except for one which stretched out against the white background; the girl plucked the laurel to weave it into crowns with which she scattered the white ground, while the dried branches of the tree were scattered over the scarlet ground. The allegorical image was completed by the motto in Old French Le tems revient, which Pulci explained as “Time returns and the age is renewed”.
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