Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici
Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici (1463-1503) is the
great-grandson of Giovanni di
Averardo de’ Medici.
His father was Pierfrancesco de’ Medici (1430–1476).
Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco was head of the junior line of the
At the age of 13 he was orphaned, and he and his brother
Giovanni were brought up under the guardianship of their second cousin
Magnificent, who chose as their tutors men of excellence in
character and letters.
Among them were the poet Naldo Naldi and the humanist Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, one of a family
closely associated with Sandro Botticelli. Lorenzo also received letters of guidance and instruction in early and
later life from the Neo-Platonic philosopher Marsilio Ficino and was a friend and patron of Angelo Poliziano.
After attaining his majority, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco became hostile to his guardian when he
discovered that he had taken 53,643 florins from his and his brother’s joint patrimony to counter a threatened
bankruptcy of the Medici bank. The two brothers obtained the villa of Cafaggiolo and other properties in
compensation, but their lurking hostility broke out in 1494, when they sided with the French to expel Piero de’
Medici (1471–1503), Lorenzo the Magnificent’s son, from Florence. Their taking of the popular side in this conflict
won them the surname of Popolano.
After a brief period of self-imposed exile between 1498 and 1499, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco
returned to Florence. Like all his family, he engaged in commerce and banking. He was also a poet, writing in the
vernacular, and a patron of poets. He and his brother inherited a palazzo in Florence adjoining the Palazzo Medici,
the family villa of Trebbio in Mugello and in 1477 acquired the villa of Castello.
Primavera by Botticelli
In art history Lorenzo is important as Botticelli’s most
significant and constant patron. Botticelli made drawings to illustrate
Cristoforo Landino’s edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy published in Florence in
1481 at Lorenzo’s expense; he also made for Lorenzo an illuminated manuscript
of the work.
He painted for him the Primavera and Pallas and the Centaur
as decorations for a room in the town palazzo and was still working for Lorenzo
at Cafaggiolo in 1495. In the villa of Trebbio there were works from
Botticelli’s workshop: an altarpiece and a Madonna.
Lorenzo was also one of Michelangelo’s first patrons: Vasari
recorded that Michelangelo carved for him a young St John the Baptist in
It was Lorenzo who in 1495 gave Michelangelo the famous advice to bury his Sleeping Cupid and
then pass it off as an antique in Rome, where he would get a much higher price for it, and then gave him
commendatory letters for the Cardinal di San Giorgio and others in Rome.
Lorenzo is also said to have founded the ceramics factory that was later transferred by him or
by his son Pierfrancesco (1486–1525) to Cafaggiolo.