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Lorenzo de' Medici

Medici, Lorenzo de' (lōrĕnˈtsō dā mĕˈdĭchē, Ital. māˈdēchē) [key], 1449–92, Italian merchant prince, called Lorenzo il Magnifico [the magnificent]. He succeeded (1469) his father, Piero de' Medici, as head of the Medici family and as virtual ruler of Florence. One of the towering figures of the Italian Renaissance, he was an astute politician, firm in purpose, yet pliant and tolerant; a patron of the arts, literature, and learning; and a reputable scholar and poet. Without adopting any official title, he subtly managed to conduct the affairs of the Florentine state. His lavish public entertainments contributed to his popularity, but, in combination with his mediocre success as a businessman, they helped to drain his funds. His growing control of the government alarmed Pope Sixtus IV, who helped to foment the Pazzi conspiracy (1478) against Lorenzo and his brother, Giuliano de' Medici. Giuliano was stabbed to death during Mass at the cathedral, but Lorenzo escaped with a wound, and the plot collapsed. Lorenzo retaliated against the Pazzi, and Sixtus excommunicated him and laid an interdict on Florence. An honorable peace was made not long afterward. In 1480, in order to retrieve his huge financial losses, Lorenzo used his political power to gain control over the public funds of Florence. The city, however, flourished, and Lorenzo, who played an important role on the international scene, constantly worked to preserve general peace by establishing a balance of power among the Italian states. Through his credit with Pope Innocent VIII he obtained a cardinal's hat for his son Giovanni (later Pope Leo X). In spite of the attacks of Girolamo Savonarola, Lorenzo allowed him to continue his preaching. Lorenzo spent huge sums to purchase Greek and Latin manuscripts and to have them copied, and he urged the use of Italian in literature. His brilliant literary circle included Poliziano, Ficino, Luigi Pulci, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. He was a patron of Sandro Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Andrea del Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and other famed artists. His own poetry—love lyrics, rustic poems, carnival songs, sonnets, and odes—shows a delicate feeling for nature. His son Piero de' Medici succeeded him as head of the family but was expelled from Florence two years later.

See C. M. Ady, Lorenzo de' Medici and Renaissance Italy (1955, repr. 1964); C. L. Mee, Lorenzo de Medici and the Renaissance (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Italian History: Biographies


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