Lorenzo de’ Medici (January 1, 1449 – April 9, 1492) – called the Magnificent – was the son of Piero de’ Medici and Lucrezia Tornabuoni and the grandson of Cosimo the Elder.
Legend says that in his early childhood, Lorenzo demonstrated unusual intelligence, good taste, curiosity and prodigious memory, all of which was accompanied by a healthy dose of wit, a trait held by many famous Florentines.
Cosimo the Elder was very fond of Lorenzo and ensured that he had the opportunity to study with the best teachers of the time. In particular, Lorenzo attended the Platonic Academy of Marsilio Ficino, who had a big influence on many elements of Florentine culture. There Lorenzo learned to play the lyre and sing, and discovered a love for poetry and arts.
The young Lorenzo grew up watching his grandfather Cosimo, whom he always tried to surpass in wisdom and cunning.
At the age of 16, Lorenzo entered politics and demonstrated excellent qualities in administering the family’s fortunes.
On the death of his father, Lorenzo, only twenty years old at this time, along with his brother Giuliano, assumed power over Florence. Recognizing his brother’s superior qualities, Giuliano immediately left to Lorenzo the tasks of government.
Lorenzo did not officially accept power, wanting to be considered a simple citizen of Florence while virtually centralizing into his own hands the power of the city and the state.
In the period between 1469 and 1472, he completely reformed state institutions, suppressed all rivalries existing between families and resolved all family problems to become the supreme arbiter in every question of dynasty. He also ensured a period of peace among the various Italian powers through his influence and important friendships.
By enacting minor changes to the communal constitution, he gained power without losing popular support: the municipal courts were preserved but, deprived of autonomy, became mere instruments in his hands.
Lorenzo is remembered as The Magnificent for his political astuteness as well as his artistic skills. He was a writer, a poet and a great patron: in these capacities he did so much to beautify his beloved Florence. In his novel Inferno, Dan Brown sums up that Lorenzo was said to have had a superb eye.
The greatest artists of the time worked for him, including Botticelli and Poliziano. He enriched the collections of the Medici family with precious works of art and rare books, today the heritage of the city of Florence.
Lorenzo personified the model of the Renaissance prince. He died on April 9, 1492, from an inherited disease that degenerated into an infection causing gangrene of the leg. At his bedside were Michelangelo Buonarroti and the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, who administered the last rites.
If you would like to know everything about Lorenzo The Magnificent and his times we suggest you this book:
The Brillant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de’ Medici