When people think of the Medici family, they may be reminded of one city: Florence. During Medici rule, there were many citizens who considered them malicious, cunning, sly — simply put, Machiavellian. Just one example, out of many, of a family who hated them was the Pazzi family, who killed Giuliano de Medici. Whether the Medici were good leaders or not may be questionable to some, but one thing is for sure: the Medici were fantastic patrons of art.
The desire for patronage began with Cosimo de Medici, son of the Medici banker Giovanni di Bicci. Although his father was only interested in banking and money, Cosimo wanted to use the family’s money for something good. It was because of Cosimo’s investment in the arts that many Italian artists were able to create artworks and create a name for themselves in Italy. Cosimo supported artists like Fra Angelico, Fra Filippo Lippi, Filippo Brunelleschi, and Donatello, to name a few.
One of Cosimo’s most notable artistic contribution is picking the artist who would create the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo. Along with a handful of Italian families, the Medici decided that Brunelleschi was going to be the architect who would create the church’s dome. To this day, this church and dome are some of the most iconic symbols of Florence.
In addition to this, Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo de Medici, also known as Il Magnifico, adapted the same desire to promote the arts. Lorenzo’s interest was primarily in the humanities, including music and poetry. Lorenzo was the man who discovered Michelangelo’s sculpting talent when Michelangelo was only thirteen years old. Lorenzo also, practically, adopted Botticelli; Botticelli’s friendship with both Lorenzo and Giuliano, Lorenzo’s brother, gained him fame in the art world and provided him with enough credibility and popularity to create significant artworks in Italy.
Both Cosimo and Lorenzo de Medici were humanists, which means they valued and appreciated the beauty of individuals (which is why they turned to the idealistic beauty seen in ancient Greek and Roman artworks). Unlike the medievalists, who feared the wrath of God, people during the Renaissance believed that humans are God’s greatest creation; therefore, they were convinced that they should strive to learn and discover as much as they can.
One thing is certain: No one can walk the city of Florence without being reminded of the Medici’s influence on its beauty.