Lorenzo the Magnificent [Lorenzo de’ Medici; Lorenzo il Magnifico], Lord of Florence
(b Florence, Jan 1449; reg 1469; d Florence, 8 April 1492).
Son of Piero de’ Medici. In 1469 Piero organized a joust to celebrate Lorenzo’s marriage to Clarice Orsini, and in the same year the succession passed, without discord, to Lorenzo. The Pazzi conspiracy (1478) and the following war challenged Medici predominance, yet Lorenzo’s leadership was consolidated by constitutional changes and by his securing peace with the papacy in 1480.
Lorenzo was both ruler and scholar. A distinguished vernacular poet, he was also passionately interested in Classical antiquity and became the centre of a humanist circle of poets, artists and philosophers, which included Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Botticelli, Bertoldo di Giovanni and Michelangelo. His taste in architecture was formed by Leon Battista Alberti, with whom he had studied antiques in Rome in 1465 and whose treatise he read repeatedly. He showed great interest in the architectural projects of his day; this has stimulated a debate on whether he may have been an amateur architect. Even if Lorenzo was not a practising architect, there is no doubt that Giuliano da Sangallo, whom he saw as able to revive the glories of antiquity, worked in close collaboration with him.
Lorenzo’s interest in antiquity is further underlined by the keenness with which he built up an expensive collection of antiquities, including sculptures, gems, cameos, vases and large-scale marble sculpture. . . . Moreover, he established a sculpture garden at S Marco, where he encouraged Michelangelo to study from the Antique, and before 1492 Michelangelo had carved his Virgin of the Steps and the Battle of the Centaurs (both Florence, Casa Buonarroti). Both Bertoldo and Michelangelo formed part of Lorenzo’s household, and this treatment of artists as the equals of humanist scholars and poets was unprecedented in Republican Florence. It introduced a new type of patronage and was associated with an increasing emphasis on the production of collector’s pieces.