The Renaissance Age gave the world a wealth of knowledge, art, inventions, and political innovations.  One new term that emerged from the Renaissance is “the Renaissance man.”  A Renaissance man is any individual who is well-rounded in all subjects, and who through his achievements, character, and virtu exudes true greatness according to Renaissance humanism.  Lorenzo de Medici was a true Renaissance man.

The achievements of Lorenzo de Medici consisted of his interests, talents, and accomplishments.  Lorenzo de Medici was extremely interested in the arts, both as a patron and as a collector.  He was the patron of scholars, painters, and sculptors:  Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Angelo Poliziano, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, the Pollaiuoli brothers, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.  His patronage outshone the work of his father and grandfather who had been illustrious in their own times.  Lorenzo became associated with the zenith of the Renaissance, because art and scholarship blossomed during his lifetime.  He founded the School of Harmony for musicians.  A school of sculpture began at Lorenzo’s San Marco villa, and his Platonic Academy attracted humanist scholars.  His collection of art extended beyond the Italian artists to include works by Flemish artists like van Eyck, Christophsen, and Memling.  As his wealth grew, so did his desire to collect the finest works in Europe.

Lorenzo de Medici’s achievements included a multitude of talents.  He wrote poetry following the example of Petrarch.  His poetical themes included women, nature, and hunting.  Lorenzo’s poems were emotional works ranging from joy to sadness.  Widely read during the Renaissance, some of his poetry is still used in literature classes today.  He became an accomplished author during his own lifetime.  Not only did he write poetry, but he also dabbled in composing and performing music.  Lorenzo loved hosting festivals in Florence, and music was a key part of the entertainment.  Singing and dancing were included in the festival parades.  Lorenzo himself composed many of the festival songs and then performed them for the large crowds.

The achievements of Lorenzo de Medici included his festivals and political shrewdness.  As mentioned before, Lorenzo held magnificent festivals in Florence.  He staged the festivals at his own expense which showcased the talents of artists like Pollaiuolo, Botticelli, and Verrochio.  Thousands of artists and workers traveled to Florence to partake in the ceremonies.  Lorenzo revived old customs and sports like dancing around the Maypole.  Masked balls became an entertaining commonality.  Besides hosting festivals, Lorenzo was also a shrewd politician.  Popular opinion rejected Medici dominion, so Lorenzo gave some of his power back to the people by creating the Council of Seventy.  The councilors managed financial and commercial activities and also provided a council for the defense of Florence.  The Council of Seventy allowed Lorenzo’s power to become covert since his hand was still strong in leading the decisions of the council.

The character of Lorenzo de Medici included his education, athleticism and gracefulness, mannerisms, and enjoyment of life.  Lorenzo received a humanistic education from his professors:  Becchi, Landino, and Poliziano.  He studied Latin and Greek.  The theories and works of Aristotle and Plato became common knowledge to him.  Lorenzo’s education extended beyond the schoolroom into athletics, gracefulness, and good manners.  His athleticism played out in his jousting, hawking, and fighting.  His gracefulness could be seen when he danced and sang.  His good manners were displayed in the way he ruled Florence.  Lorenzo greatly enjoyed daily life and gained the title “the Magnificent” because of his patronage of culture.  Lorenzo used his charm and perceptive leadership to pursue his own desires.  In the end, he was viewed by contemporaries as Plato’s “perfect man.”

The virtu of Lorenzo de Medici was displayed in his decisiveness of character and his legacy.  The meaning of virtu has the idea of possessing vitality and valor.  Although some contemporaries considered Lorenzo’s reign to be a tyranny, his reign and his decisiveness was forgiven by most of the people.  His political judgments were swift and resolute.  His benevolence towards the people through carnivals and tournaments was clear to his critics.

Lorenzo de Medici’s legacy impacted the Italian states and the politics of Florence for many future generations.  His legacy transformed the papacy:  his son Giovanni became Pope Leo X, and his nephew Giulio became Clement VII.  Also, Lorenzo’s daughter married the son of Innocent VIII.  His legacy also transformed nations:  his great-granddaughter, Catherine de Medici, married the king of France and played the role of queen-mother to her three sons who ruled France consecutively.

Lorenzo de Medici truly was a Renaissance man based on his achievements, character, and virtu.  His legacy remains even in these modern times through the artwork from his patronage as it is appreciated by connoisseurs worldwide.  Lorenzo influenced the Renaissance and future European history more than any other person of his era.

– Hannah S. Bowers

Works Consulted

David Loth.  Lorenzo the Magnificent.  New York:  Brentano’s Publishers, 1929.

De Lamar Jensen.  Renaissance Europe:  Age of Recovery and Reconciliation.  Lexington, MA:  D. C. Heath and Company, 1992.

Hugh Ross Williamson.  Lorenzo the Magnificent.  New York:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1974.

“Lorenzo de’ Medici.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. (accessed February 22, 2012).

Maurice Rowdon.  Lorenzo the Magnificent.  Chicago:  Henry Regnery Company, 1974.

Paul Johnson.  The Renaissance:  A Short History.  New York: The Modern Library, 2000.