The Medici Family rose to power on the successes of their banking and commerce ventures. The branch of the family that came to dominate Middle Age Florence descended from Giovanni di Bicci de Medici (1360-1429), who founded the Medici Bank in Florence.
It was through his eldest son Cosimo de Medici (1389-1464) that the family’s banking interests transformed from a successful business venture into an accumulation of power to the extent that Cosimo became a kind of uncrowned monarch till his death in 1464.
Known as Cosimo the Elder, he founded the first public library in Florence, which became a center for the study of the humanities — grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy. He was also the primary supporter of such notable early Renaissance artists as Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Fra Angelico, with their contributions in architecture, painting, and sculpture, revolutionizing the world of art and culture. Their masterpieces considered some of the greatest works of art in history.
Cosimo, along with his sons and grandsons, most notably his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-1492), would bankroll the majority of the greats of the Florentine Renaissance contributing greatly to the city’s development as the cultural center of Europe.
Lorenzo himself, a distinguished poet with a passionate interest in classical antiquity, was one of the greatest patrons of the Renaissance. He supported the works of such greats as Leonardo, Botticelli, and Michelangelo, with the latter invited to reside at the palace to be educated along with Lorenzo’s own children.
The Medici family, who were and are still considered some of the greatest patrons of the arts in history, led the wealthy classes of merchants who poured a significant amount of their resources into the promotion of the arts. Their investment in the works of those we hold up as the Greats of the Renaissance, revolutionized the Italian peninsula, spread through Europe, and ultimately changed the world.
Giovanni di Bicci de Medici
Cristofano dell’Altissimo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cosimo de Medici
Workshop of Bronzino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Lorenzo de Medici
After Andrea del Verrocchio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Confirmation of the Rule by Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons