Lorenzo the Magnificent

In Renaissance Florence, the Medicis were the most important political family. The richest family in Italy (and perhaps in Europe), the Medicis spent a great deal of money building churches, supporting art, giving to charity, and constructing family monuments to ensure their continued political and social control of the city. They were like Renaissance Vanderbilts or Rockefellers.

During Leonardo's time, Lorenzo de Medici (also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent) ruled Florence. Thanks to Lorenzo's avid support of the arts, Florence rose to a central position in the Renaissance artistic world. Lorenzo's many cultural commissions elevated Florence to the status of the other capital cities of Europe, and Florence's cultural influence became far-reaching. As the cultural center of Europe, Florence also became the founding location of the new humanist movement. Florence was certainly the place to be!

Under the Medici family, patronage grew to include more than just single works of art. The Medicis commissioned not only gardens, fountains, and public sculptures, but also residences, government centers, fortified compounds, artistic institutions, and even intricately staged public events.

By 1480, Leonardo had established his own studio in Florence and became well known enough to acquire a patron. He became a member of the garden of San Marcos, which was under the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici. In fact, Lorenzo was Michelangelo's patron as well.

Adoration of the Magi

During this time, Leonardo was commissioned to paint Adoration of the Magi for the monastery altar of San Donato Scopeto. The scene shows the Three Kings along with Mary and her infant son. Although Leonardo was given more than two years to work on this piece, even that wasn't enoughtime. He managed to finish enough of it to show that he was well on his way to breaking away of Verrocchio's influence. The style is different from his previous works, with a triangular grouping of people in the foreground and an elaborate background that combines natural and architectural elements. While many works of the day were composed linearly, a straight line was just too boring for Leonardo. Adoration has a balanced, symmetrical structure, again showcasing Leonardo's rapidly developing independence.

While under Lorenzo de Medici's patronage, Leonardo worked on other paintings such as San Gerolamo. Unfortunately, this patron-artist arrangement did not last for long. Leonardo was a strong-spirited artist with a reputation for not finishing everything he started, and Lorenzo the Magnificent expected his sponsored works to be completed. With a name like Magnificent, you expect things to be done your way! After a few years, it was time for Leonardo to move on.

  1. Home
  2. Leonardo da Vinci
  3. Leonardo's Many Patrons
  4. Lorenzo the Magnificent
Visit other About.com sites: