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Italian Renaissance Learning Resources

In collaboration with the National Gallery of Art

Medici, Cosimo de’

Cosimo [il vecchio] de’ Medici, Lord of Florence

(b Florence, 27 Sept 1389; d Careggi, 1 Aug 1464).

Son of Giovanni di Averardo de’ Medici. He was the greatest private patron of his time, who, motivated through ambition for his family, and perhaps through a desire to expiate the sin of usury, introduced a new conception of patronage; a humanist, he fully appreciated the propaganda value of architecture and sculpture, and his ambitions rivalled those of the Comune. Primarily an architectural patron, Cosimo favoured Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, but he also gave generous support to Donatello and others. Cosimo increased his father’s trading and banking business and became one of the wealthiest men of his time. He dominated Florence from 1434; yet he himself valued his burgher status and constantly emphasized it, and the artistic tradition associated with him is simple and restrained. He was prior of his guild in 1415 and 1417, accompanied the antipope John XXIII to the Council of Constance and then travelled in Germany and France. He was Florentine ambassador to Milan (1420), Lucca (1423), Bologna (1424) and the court of Pope Martin V in Rome. His long association with Michelozzo began in this period: in the 1420s Michelozzo remodelled Cosimo’s austere villa at Trebbio and the monastery of S Francesco at Bosco ai Frati, both of which were situated in his patron’s native region of the Mugello.

Marlis von Hessert