Lorenzo the Magnificent developed lands at the Piazza S Marco (lands that his grandsire Cosimo had begun assembling in the 1450s, as Elam demonstrated) into a retreat with reception rooms as well as pleasant grounds. By 1480 the property was well-enough developed to show the Cardinal of Aragon its library and garden. Accounts by Benedetto Varchi and Vasari state that it was ‘filled with antique and modern sculptures, in such a way that the loggia, the paths and all the rooms were adorned with good antique figures of marble, with paintings . . . from the hands of the best masters’ (Vasari). According to them, young artists and aristocrats, including Michelangelo, were placed in the care of Bertoldo di Giovanni to study the examples of ancient art, forming a ‘school and academy’ that Pevsner defined as working to the ‘first modern method’. As Bertoldo and Lorenzo died in 1491 and 1492 respectively, their involvement in the project would have been brief. The garden’s contents were sacked in 1494 by French troops under Charles VIII.
James David Draper