The Influence of the Medici

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  • Topic: Florence, House of Medici, Lorenzo de' Medici
  • Pages : 6 (1835 words )
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  • Published : December 13, 2010
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In this paper I will argue that the Medici family had an influence on the art produced during the Renaissance Era. The Medici family managed to become the chief patrons of the era, going from merchant class to bankers and eventually politicians. Many of Florence’s most recognizable buildings and features exist due to the influence of the Medici.

Between 1300 and 1600 the Western world was transformed. An extraordinary wave of artistic and cultural innovation shattered medieval society and brought European culture reluctantly into the modern era. This was the Renaissance. Artists discovered how to paint in the third dimension, bringing new life and realism to their subjects. Breaking away from the religious traditions of the medieval world, they created entirely new genres of art, rich emotion. Radical new techniques were invented, such as painting with oils, and perspective. Artists such as, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Donatello transformed the way we saw our world.

The House of Medici or de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house. It first began to gain prominence under the man Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. Gradually the family made money through illegal loaning, they were able to found the Medici Bank and rise in social ranking. The bank was the largest, most prosperous and respected institution in Europe during the 15th century. The Medici also gained political power in Florence; though officially they remained simply citizens. The Medici produced four Popes of the Catholic Church and in 1531 the family became hereditary Dukes of Florence[1]. From this, they acquired political power initially in Florence and later in wider in Italy. Since they were able to bring Florence under their family's power, this allowed for an environment where art and humanism could flourish. Also, by establishing several major institutions for artistic production and instruction they fostered the birth of the Italian Renaissance.

The ways in which the Medici had an effect on culture was through sponsorship of art and architecture. The Medici was responsible for the majority of Florentine art during their reign. Their money was significant because during this period, artists generally only crafts their works when they received commissions in advance, and simply the fact that they could buy whomever’s art they wanted. Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the first patron of the arts in the family, commissioned Brunelleschi for the reconstruction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence in 1419. The Basilica of San Lorenzo is one of the largest and oldest churches of Italy[2]. It is placed in the city’s main market district, and the burial place to members of the Medici family from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III. For three hundred years it was the city's cathedral. One can only imagine how people were influenced by the style of architecture and art displayed by the Basilica. This form of architectural propaganda was used for promotion of themselves, their status, and of their religion.

The most significant addition to the list over the years was Michaelangelo. He produced work for a number of Medici, beginning with Lorenzo the Magnificent. Lorenzo was said to be extremely fond of the young Michelangelo, inviting him to study the family collection of antique sculpture[3]. Lorenzo served as patron to Leonardo da Vinci for seven years. His support of the arts is seen as a high point in Medici patronage. Celebrated during his lifetime for his extraordinary talent as a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet, Michelangelo inspired subsequent Florentine artists and attracted the city's most powerful patrons. The Medici grand dukes patronage allowed art in all ways to flourish. In addition to commissioning portraits and decorative objects for their private enjoyment and public display, the Medici...
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