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Lorenzo de' Medici and the Art of Magnificence

, 248 pages

28 halftones

July 2004



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Lorenzo de' Medici and the Art of Magnificence

In the past half century scholars have downplayed the significance of Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492), called "the Magnificent," as a patron of the arts. Less wealthy than his grandfather Cosimo, the argument goes, Lorenzo was far more interested in collecting ancient objects of art than in commissioning contemporary art or architecture. His earlier reputation as a patron was said to be largely a construct of humanist exaggeration and partisan deference.

Although some recent studies have taken issue with this view, no synthesis of Lorenzo as art patron and art lover has yet emerged. In Lorenzo de' Medici and the Art of Magnificence historian F. W. Kent offers a new look at Lorenzo's relationship to the arts, aesthetics, collecting, and building—especially in the context of his role as the political boss ( maestro della bottega) of republican Florence and a leading player in Renaissance Italian diplomacy. As a result of this approach, which pays careful attention to the events of his short but dramatic life, a radically new chronology of Lorenzo's activities as an art patron emerges, revealing them to have been more extensive and creative than previously thought. Kent's Lorenzo was broadly interested in the arts and supported efforts to beautify Florence and the many Medici lands and palaces. His expertise was well regarded by guildsmen and artists, who often turned to him for advice as well as for patronage. Lorenzo himself was educated in the arts by such men, and Kent explores his aesthetic education and taste, taking into account what is known of Lorenzo's patronage of music and manuscripts, and of his own creative work as a major Quattrocento poet.

Richly illustrated with photographs of Medici landmarks by Ralph Lieberman, Lorenzo de' Medici and the Art of Magnificence offers a masterful portrait of Lorenzo as a man whose achievements might have rivaled his grandfather's had he not died so young.

F. W. Kent is a professor of history and Australian Professorial Fellow at Monash University and the founding director of Monash University Centre in Prato. He is the author of Household and Lineage in Renaissance Florence: The Family Life of the Capponi, Ginori, and Rucellai.

"This suggestive book... looks for its audience to art historians whom F. W. Kent feels might benefit from a historian's discussion of the fragmentary information surrounding Lorenzo's various activities. "

"Kent has brought the breadth and depth of knowledge furnished by his nigh on forty years' research in the archives and libraries of Florence, an extraordinarily sensitive ear for the voices of his fifteenth-century Florentines, a nuanced and subtle understanding of their society and its leading figure, and a Renaissance elegance of structure and writing."

"Extremely valuable... Even though the book tackles a specific theme—Lorenzo the Magnificence's relationship with the visual arts—it also characterizes this key Renaissance figure in the broad political, cultural, and psychological terms available only to a scholar so deeply engaged with every aspect of Lorenzo's life."

"Elegantly compresses long study, and will stand as a companion to the same author's forthcoming two-volume biography of Lorenzo."

"Without exaggeration, this is one of the most important books on the Italian Renaissance to have been published over the last two generations. As a study of Lorenzo de' Medici's patronage, his wide-ranging artistic tastes, his complex personality, and the art world of his times, it is an original, comprehensive, and insightful work. And given Lorenzo's stature as a politician, patron, and poet, as well as the vast bibliography on the man and his times, it is also a work of remarkably courageous synthesis."

"A book with much to offer all readers."

"[Kent is] to be commended highly for penetration as well as precision in [his] scholarship."

"A remarkable biography of a remarkable man."

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