House of Medici
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Medici family was a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th century. The family produced three popes (Leo X, Clement VII, and Leo XI), numerous rulers of Florence (notably Lorenzo il Magnifico, patron of some of the most famous works of renaissance art), and later members of the French and English royalty. Like other Signore families they dominated their city's government. They were able to bring Florence under their family's power allowing for an environment where art and humanism could flourish. They led the birth of the Italian Renaissance along with the other great signore families of Italy like the Visconti and Sforza families of Milan, the Este of Ferrara, the Gonzaga of Mantua, and others.
The Medici Bank was one of the most prosperous and most respected in Europe. There are some estimates that the Medici family was for a period of time the wealthiest family in Europe. From this base, the family acquired political power initially in Florence, and later in wider Italy and Europe. A notable contribution to the profession of accounting was the improvement of the general ledger system through the development of the double-entry bookkeeping system for tracking credits and debits. This system was first used by accountants working for the Medici family in Florence.
The biggest accomplishments of the Medici were in the sponsorship of art and architecture, mainly early and High Renaissance art and architecture. The Medici were responsible for the majority of Florentine art during their reign. Their money was significant because during this period, artists generally only made their works when they received commissions in advance. Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the first patron of the arts in the family, aided Masaccio and commissioned Brunelleschi for the reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence in 1419. Cosimo the Elder's notable artistic associates were Donatello and Fra Angelico. The most significant addition to the list over the years was Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), who produced work for a number of Medici, beginning with Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was said to be extremely fond of the young Michelangelo, inviting him to study the family collection of antique sculpture. Lorenzo also served as patron to Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) for seven years. Indeed Lorenzo was an artist in his own right, and author of poetry and song; his support of the arts and letters is seen as a high point in Medici patronage.
After Lorenzo's death the puritanical Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola rose to prominence, warning Florentines against excessive luxury. Under Savonarola's fanatical leadership, many great works were "voluntarily" destroyed in the Bonfire of the Vanities (February 7, 1497). The following year, on May 23, 1498, Savonarola and two young supporters were burned at the stake in the Piazza della Signoria, the same location as his bonfire. In addition to commissions for art and architecture, the Medici were prolific collectors and today their acquisitions form the core of the Uffizi museum in Florence. In architecture, the Medici are responsible for some notable features of Florence; including the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, the Belvedere, and the Palazzo Medici, Medici Chapel
Later, in Rome, the Medici Popes continued in the family tradition of patronizing artists. Pope Leo X would chiefly commission works from Raphael. Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to paint the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel just before the pontiff's death in 1534. Eleanor of Toledo, princess of Spain and wife of Cosimo I the Great, purchased the Pitti Palace from Buonaccorso Pitti in 1550. Cosimo in turn patronized Vasari who erected the Uffizi Gallery in 1560 and founded the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno – ("Academy of the Arts of Drawing") in 1563. Marie de' Medici, widow of Henry IV of France and mother of Louis XIII, is the subject of a commissioned cycle of paintings known as the Marie de' Medici cycle, painted for the Luxembourg Palace by court painter Peter Paul Rubens in 1622-23.
Although none of the Medici themselves were scientists, the family is well known to have been the patrons of the famous Galileo Galilei, who tutored multiple generations of Medici children, and was an important figurehead for his patron's quest for power. Galileo's patronage was eventually abandoned by Ferdinando II, when the Inquisition accused Galileo of heresy. However, the Medici family did afford the scientist a safe haven for many years. Galileo named the four largest moons of Jupiter after four Medici children he tutored, although the names Galileo used are not the names currently used.
- Salvestro de' Medici (1331–1388), led the assault against the revolt of the ciompi, became dictator of Florence, and banished in 1382
- Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici (1360–1429), restored the family fortune
- Cosimo the Elder (1389–1464), founder of the Medici political dynasty
- Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449–1492), leader of Florence during the Golden Age of the Renaissance
- Lucrezia di Lorenzo de' Medici (1470–1553), married Jacopo Salviati, grandmother of Cosimo I de' Medici.
- Giovanni de' Medici (1475–1523), Pope Leo X
- Giulio de' Medici (1478–1534), Pope Clement VII
- Cosimo I the Great (1519–1574), First Grand Duke of Tuscany who restored the Medici lustre
- Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589), Queen of France
- Alessandro Ottaviano de' Medici (1535–1605), Pope Leo XI
- Bia de' Medici (1536-1542), illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici
- Eleonora de' Medici (February 28, 1567– September 9, 1611), Duchess of Mantua
- Marie de' Medici (1575–1642), Queen and Regent of France
- Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici (1667–1743) the last of the Medici line