Wednesday, December 10, 2014


It began with his grandfather, the great Cosimo. It began with Cosimo’s love of spending money to enrich the city he loved so much. In his own words, he reveals such expenditures arose from a profound sense of civic duty, “All those things have given me the greatest satisfaction and contentment because they are not only for the honor of God but are likewise for my own remembrance.” (Taylor. F.H. (1948) The Taste of Angels; a History of Art Collecting from Rameses to Napoleon, pp 65-66). It was a duty passed to and expanded by his grandson.

The list of artists and philosophers under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici reads like a Who’s Who of the Italian Renaissance. Below are the most prominent as well as examples of their works.

In the realm of intellectualism, he expanded the library begun by his grandfather (a library now known as the Medici or Laurentian Library) by importing from the East great amounts of classical works. He financially supported a workshop to copy all books in his possession and to spread their content across all of Europe.

The Platonic Academy, led by Marsilio Ficino (under the patronage of Lorenzo), was a modern form of Plato’s Academy. Other members, and those who called Lorenzo patron, included Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano as well as Marsilio Ficino. The informal group supported the development of humanism and attempted to merge the ideas of Plato with Christianity.

Piero and Antonio del Pollaiolo, were two brothers of extraordinary artistic talent; they came under the wing of Il Magnifico at a fairly early age. It was by Lorenzo’s connections that they were able to establish their own studiolos. Both went on to produce magnificent works, works that furthered the evolution of art intrinsic to the Renaissance.

Battle of Nude Men (1465-1475, engraving)
Antonio del Pollaiolo
Justice (1470,
tempura on panel)
Piero del Pollaiolo
Antonio (1429-1498) was a goldsmith, engraver, painter, and sculptor. Like his brother, his work reveals classical influences as well as those rooted in the essence of human anatomy. Antonio’s work exhibits a far darker side than his brother’s, a strong brutality, especially in his metal-work and sculpture, where he achieved his greatest success.

There is to be found a greater sense of piety and serenity in Piero del Pollaiolo’s (1443-1496) work than in his brother’s. His works tend much more to the religious as well as female portraiture. Portrait of a Woman, Portrait of a Girl, Coronation of the Virgin as well as the Seven Virtues exhibit his softer nature.

The Last Supper
(1480; fresco)
Considered a member of the third generation in the many waves of the Florentine Renaissance, Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) was not only a master painter but one of the most prolific, creating a massive body of work in frescoes, altar pieces, and portraits. The trend of incorporating contemporary portraits within religious narratives was perfected under his brush. His studio contributed not only some of the greatest works of the age, but one of the greatest artists of the era as well.

Not only an artist under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known to the world as Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) was also one of the powerful man’s closest and dearest friends. His body of work includes some of the greatest of the age, with The Birth of Venus and Primavera most widely known. By his hand we see the magnificent merging of the Gothic realism with the study of the antique.
Venus and Mars
(1485 tempura and oil on poplar)

Winged Boy with Dolphin
(1470 bronze)
Verrocchio (which in Italian means ‘true eye’), born Andrea di Michele di Francesco de’ Cioni (1435-1488), was one of the greatest maestri of the Renaissance. His artistic supremacy encompassed sculpture, painting, and goldsmith work. A place in his studio was a sought after and much envied place, a place where other great artists would come into the bright light of the Renaissance. One of the brightest being none other than Leonardo da Vinci.

Lorenzo called Leonardo friend as well as artist. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was educated by his father (though born out of wedlock) and brought to Verrocchio’s studio by the same man. But to call Leonardo merely an artist is a statement of great injustice. He was more, so very much more…a polymath,
La Scapigliata
(1508 Oil on canvas; unfinished)
a personal favorite; she cried with me;
da Vinci
painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, cartographer, writer, botanist, and geologist. His genius and monumental curiosity gave rise, quite rightly, to the term Renaissance Man.

Much time could be spent debating who was the greatest artist to come under the wing of the great Lorenzo…Leonardo or Michelangelo. The time would be better spent simply reveling in the magnificent works of both men.

Madonna and Child
(1501-1504, marble)
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564), like Leonardo, was a man of many talents. Poet, engineer, architect, painter, and sculptor, his creations still beautify the world. Though most known for his work on the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo considered himself, first and foremost, a sculptor. Lorenzo’s support of this talented man went beyond most others, giving Michelangelo a place in his home during the most trying times of a very traumatic life. In the words of biographer Paolo Giovi, Michelangelo was both ‘bizzarro e fantastico.’ Michelanglo’s body of work is among the most prolific and the most profound.

Through his generosity, intellectual curiosity, as well as his joy and admiration of artistic works, Lorenzo de’ Medici may be called, without question, one of the greatest forces behind the magnificence that was the Renaissance.

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