Wednesday, June 18, 2014


If one were to give a cursory look at the Medici family history, it would appear as if the generation of Cosimo the Elder was immediately followed by that of Lorenzo, il Magnifico. But in fact a generation existed between them. One, unfortunately, easily forgotten.

As the family tree demonstrates, Cosimo had one brother surviving through to maturity. Lorenzo de Medici (who would later come to be known as Lorenzo the Elder), was a valued member of the Medici family, as well as the Florentine community. It is said of him that he is the father of the dei popolani (of the common people) branch of the Medici family, perhaps not the greatest of distinctions. However, his devotion to his more distinguished brother could never be questioned. Educated by Carlo Marsuppini, a humanist and chancellor of the Florentine Republic, Lorenzo the Elder followed his brother on all of Cosimo's travels, both those before and during Cosimo's expulsion. From Verona to Ferrara to Vincenza, Lorenzo remained close to his brother's side. During Cosimo's banishment, Lorenzo attempted to form an army to fight for Cosimo's freedom. Unsuccessful, Lorenzo joined Cosimo in Venice, where they spent the majority of the ousted years.

Upon the return of the Medici to power in Florence, Lorenzo the Elder worked tirelessly in the family's
Pierfrancesco in Filippino Lippi's
Adoration of the Magi
banking efforts. He married Ginevra Cavalcanti, the Cavalcantis a powerful and noble Florentine family in their own right, and together they gave birth to two children. The eldest, Francesco, died in childhood. While his brother Pierfrancesco would go on to gain a much more important place in the Medici clan.

"Orphaned" (in this era of Italian history, the death of the father would constitute being orphaned) at the age of seven, Pierfrancesco was raised by his influential and intellectual uncle Cosimo. He would go on to serve the Republic, and henceforth his uncle, as an astute and talented ambassador, first to the pope (1458) and then to Mantua (1463). In 1459 he served as Priore delle Arti.

The single misstep in this man's career came in 1466 when he became part of Lucca Pitti's attempted coup of his cousin Piero (Cosimo's son). Forgiven for his transgression, Pierfrancesco would live out his years serving the family banking establishments dilligently, bringing help to his younger cousin Lorenzo the Maginificent at a momentous point in history. Upon Pierfrancesco's death in 1476, the same cousin Lorenzo would adopt and raise Pierfrancesco's two children.

As for Cosimo, he gave birth to a total of three children. His illegitimate son Carlo was discussed in a previous post. With his wife, Contessina de Bardi, Cosimo conceived two sons, neither of whom would greatly distinguish themselves.

Giovanni di Cosimo de Medici
by Francesco Salviati
The least known of the two is Giovanni di Cosimo de Medici. Though born as the second son, Cosimo groomed Giovanni to be his successor; not only did he enjoy better health than his elder brother he shiwed a greater proclivity for education, especially in the music and the humanities. Beginning in 1438, he served as the director of the Ferrara branch of the family bank and in 1454, Giovanni became a Prior of Florence, serving as a member of the delegation welcoming Pope Pius II to the city. In the same year he married Ginevra degli Alessandri and the two produced one child, a son who failed to live past his eighth birthday. As if the loss was more than he could manage, Giovanni soon followed his son, passing away in 1463.

Villa Medici a Fiesole

Nonetheless, Giovanni left a lasting legacy. As a renowned patron of the arts, he sponsored such great talents as Mino da Fiesole (whom he had build the Villa Medici a Fiesole), Desiderio da Settignano, Donatello, Domenico Veneziano, Pesellino, and most importantly Filippo Lippi.

The hopes of the Medici family fell upon the surviving, legitimate child, Piero, known also as Piero the Gouty. As his nickname implies, he was not his father's first choice of successor due to his poor health, but on the passing of his brother, he had no choice but to step up to the helm. Piero became the last Medici to be elected as Gonfalonier of Justice in 1461. And though he did not possess either the wisdom or the virtue of his father, he came to power upon Cosimo's death in 1464, a death brought on by the same gout Piero suffered. To his credit and his detriment, Piero was known as a good-natured man, inclined to be merciful, mild, and lenient, wonderful qualities in a human, easily manipulated qualities in a politician. It has been said that Piero almost allowed himself to be governed, some men usurping so much authority they nearly stripped him of his power completely.

Basicilica Sant'Ambrogio
Many of the city's more aggressive, influential men--men such as Dietisalvi di Nerone and Agnolo Acciaiuoli--planned to depose Piero. The scheme began with the manipulations of elections, but through the large Medici following and friendships, Piero was able to block their plan. Yet things only grew worse for the passive Piero. Blocking a loan requested by Milan though many in the government approved of it, brought more and more antagonism against him. When Piero went off to Careggi, one of the Medici's country villas, his enemies decided to murder him during his return journey. Troops provided by Borso d'Este hid in Sant'Ambrogio del Vescovo, a church Piero typically--and as was commonly known--passed on his way home. Warned by Giovanni II Bentivoglio, Piero took an alternate route and was able to escape the coup. Futher frustrating the assassin, his son Lorenzo discovered a road-block set up by the conspirators to capture Piero in his trip towards the Medici villa at Careggi; he was not recognized, and was able to warn his father. That coup failed as did one weakly launched by the Venetians. Though the threats were multiple and malicious, Piero continued his clement ways, punishing only those whom it was too dangerous not to.

Piero di Cosimo de Medici scuffled with the Venetians and the Vatican in his lifetime, especially with the advent of Pope Paul's papacy. He was able to send diplomats in search for the answers to such antagonism, but he died before peace--and peace there was--was made.

Passing in 1469, serving only five years as the defacto ruler of Florence, this impotent if incurably kind man was grieved over by the entire city. With his intellectual, erudite, and prolific wife, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, Piero left two sons...two sons whose fate would be inextricable entwined with the city of their birth, each changed forever by each other.

No comments: