In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Lorenzo de' Medici

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Correspondence
  • Dynastic Interests
  • Lorenzo and the Florentine Elites
  • Florentine Territorial State
  • Pazzi Conspiracy
  • Relations with Other States
  • Literary Culture
  • Festivals

Renaissance and Reformation Lorenzo de' Medici
Stella Fletcher
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0050


Following his grandfather Cosimo (b. 1389–d. 1464) and father Piero (b. 1416–d. 1469), Lorenzo (b. 1449–d. 1492) was the third head of the Medici dynasty to use commercial wealth and international banking connections to lead Florence’s dominant political faction, undermine its republican constitution, and exercise strategic influence over its relations with other states. As his copious correspondence confirms, Lorenzo was a significant diplomatic player in all the peninsular conflicts of his time, including the Pazzi War in the late 1470s, and the War of Ferrara and the Neapolitan Barons’ War in the 1480s. To the generation of Italians who lived through the French invasions of Naples in 1494 and Milan in 1499, and the lengthy conflicts they initiated, Lorenzo came to personify a lost golden age of peace, prosperity, and cultural efflorescence. His posthumous reputation was enhanced by the fact that his son Giovanni and nephew Giulio went on to be elected pope, as Leo X and Clement VII, respectively, and that his great-grandson Cosimo was the first of a line of Medici grand dukes of Tuscany. Over the intervening centuries, secular hagiography has gradually given way to a more balanced assessment of his achievements as a faction leader, statesman, and cultural patron. Consequently, after citing a number of Reference Works, the present article explores the evolution of Lorenzo’s Reputation. It does not separate primary and secondary sources. Rather, it emphasizes the major initiative to publish his Correspondence, which has, in turn, influenced all other recent work in the field. Dynastic Interests were played out on a broad European canvas, though the nature of Italian archives means that there has been an obvious concentration on Lorenzo and the Florentine Elites. Logically, that leads outward into the Florentine Territorial State. The Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478 had both Florentine and Roman dimensions, making it a useful connection to Relations with Other States. Away from politics and diplomacy, his poetry has always ensured that Lorenzo’s name has been integral to the study of Literary Culture in Renaissance Italy. Festivals combined literary and nonliterary elements, so are placed ahead of the Visual Culture, which spans the building of villas in the Florentine contado, references to a sculpture garden in the city and the cultural dimension of interstate diplomacy. Studies of all these subjects and more exist in the Collections of Papers that proliferated in and around the fifth centenary of Lorenzo’s death.

Reference Works

By far the most valuable reference work for this subject is the Dizionario biografico degli italiani, which was published in alphabetical order over a period of six decades. Although Lorenzo’s extra-peninsular diplomatic and commercial contacts were wide-ranging, they were concentrated in France, Florence’s most powerful ally, which renders the Dictionnaire de Biographie Française of greater relevance than other national biographical dictionaries. However, neither of these resources is likely to be completed for many years. Turner 1996 is a valuable point of departure for the all matters relating to the visual arts.

  • Dictionnaire de Biographie Française. 19 vols. Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1932–.

    The commercial links forged by the Medici with the kingdom of France provided the basis for a political alliance between France and the Florentine republic. Although the Dictionnaire de Biographie Française remains incomplete (the most recent volume ends with La Vallée), it can be consulted for individuals such as the regent Anne de Beaujeu and King Charles VIII.

  • Dizionario biografico degli italiani. 100 vols. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 1960–2020.

    Volume 73 (2009) contains the biographies of over forty members of the Medici family, including Ingeborg Walter’s entry on Lorenzo (pp. 113–124). The bibliography includes works published up to 2006. The text is also available online. The Dizionario biografico degli italiani is the principal reference work for all significant figures who lived in any of the Italian states and should be consulted for Lorenzo’s political, ecclesiastical, and cultural contemporaries.

  • Turner, Jane, ed. The Dictionary of Art. 34 vols. London: Macmillan, 1996.

    A detailed reference work of relevance for the various artists, sculptors, and architects whose names have been associated with Lorenzo, associations that may have involved direct patronage or may have consisted of recommendations to other patrons.

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