Medici, Lorenzo

, grandson of the preceding, was born Jan. 1, 1448. From his earliest years he gave proofs of a vigorous mind, which was carefully cultivated, and exhibited many traits of that princely and liberal spirit which afterwards procured him the title of “Magnificent.” In polite literature he cultivated poetry, and gave some proofs of his talents in various compositions. At the death of Cosmo, on account of the infirmities of his father Peter de Medici, he was immediately initiated into political life, although then only in his sixteenth year. He was accordingly sent to visit the principal courts in Italy, and acquire a personal knowledge of their politics and their rulers. In 1469 his father died, leaving his two sons Lorenzo and Julian heirs of his power and property; but it was Lorenzo who succeeded him as head of the republic. Upon the accession of Sixtus IV. to the papal throne, he went, with some other citizens, to congratulate the new pope, and was invested with the office of treasurer of the holy see, and while at Rome took every opportunity to add to the remains of ancient art which his family had collected. One of the first public occurrences after he conducted the helm of government, was a revolt of the inhabitants of Volterra, on account of | a dispute with the Florentine republic; by the recommendation of Lorenzo, means of force were adopted, which ended in the sack of the unfortunate city, an event that gave him much concern. In 1472, he re-established the academy of Pisa, to which he removed in order to complete the work, exerted himself in selecting the most eminent professors, and contributed to it a large sum from his private fortune, in addition to that granted by the state of Florence. Zealously attached to the Platonic philosophy, he took an active part in the establishment of an academy for its promotion, and instituted an annual festival in honour of the memory of Plato, which was conducted with singular literary splendour. While he was thus advancing in a career of prosperity and reputation, a tragical incident was very near depriving his country of his future services. This was the conspiracy of the Pazzi, a numerous and distinguished family in Florence, of which the object was the assassination of Lorenzo and his brother. In the latter they were successful; but Lorenzo was saved, and the people attached to the Medici collecting in crowds, putto death or apprehended the assassins, whose designs were thus entirely frustrated, and summary justice was inflicted on the criminals. Salviati, archbishop of Pisa, was hanged out of the palace window in his sacerdotal robes; and Jacob de Pazzi, with one of his nephews, shared the same fate. The name and arms of the Pazzi family were suppressed, its members were banished, and Lorenzo rose still higher in the esteem and affection of his fellow-citizens. The pope, Sixtus IV. who was deep in this foul conspiracy, inflamed almost to madness by the defeat of his schemes, excommunicated Lorenzo and the magistrates of. Florence, laid an interdict upon the whole territory, and, forming a league with the king of Naples, prepared to invade the Florentine dominions. Lorenzo appealed to all the surrounding potentates for the justice of his cause; and he was affectionately supported by his fellow-citizens. Hostilities began, and were carried on with various success through two campaigns. At the close of 1479, Lorenzo took the bold resolution of paying a visit to the king of Naples, and, without any previous security, trusted his liberty and his life to the mercy of a declared enemy. The monarch was struck with this heroic act of confidence, and a treaty of mutual defence and friendship was agreed upon between them, and Sixtus afterwards | consented to a peace. At length the death of Sixtus IV. freed him from an adversary who never ceased to bear him ill-will; and he was able to secure himself a friend in his successor Innocent VIII. He conducted the republic of Florence to a degree of tranquillity and prosperity which it had scarcely ever known before; and by procuring the institution of a deliberative body, of the nature of a senate, he corrected the democratical part of his constitution.

Lorenzo distinguished himself beyond any of his predecessors in the encouragement of literature and the arts: and his own productions are distinguished by a vigour of imagination, an accuracy of judgment, and an elegance of style, which afforded the first great example of improvement, and entitle him, almost exclusively, to the honourable appellation of the “restorer of Italian literature.” His compositions are sonnets, canzoni, and other lyric pieces, some longer works in stanzas, some comic satires, and jocose carnival songs, and various sacred poems, the latter as serious as many of the former are licentious. Some of these pieces, especially those of the lighter kind, in which he imitated the rustic dialect, became extremely popular. His regard to literature, in general, was testified by the extraordinary attention which he paid to the augmentation of the Laurentian library. Although the ancestors of Lorenzo laid the foundation of the immense collection of Mss. contained in this library, he may claim the honour of having raised the superstructure. If there was any pursuit in which he engaged more ardently and persevered in more diligently than the rest, it was that of enlarging his collection of books and antiquities: for this purpose he employed the services of learned men, in different parts of Italy, and especially of his intimate friend and companion Poiitian, who took several journeys in order to discover and purchase the valuable remains of antiquity. “I wish,” said Lorenzo to him as he was proceeding on one of these expeditions, “that the diligence of Picus and yourself would afford me such opportunities of purchasing books that I should be obliged even to pledge my furniture to possess them.” Two journeys, undertaken at the instance of Lorenzo, into the east, by John Lascar, produced a great number of rare and valuable works. On his return from his second expedition, he brought with him two hundred copies, many of which he had procured | from a monastery at mount Athos; but this treasure did not arrive till after the death of Lorenzo, who, in his last moments, expressed to Politian and Picus his regret that he could not live to complete the collection which he was forming for their accommodation. On the discovery of the invaluable art of printing, Lorenzo was solicitous to avail himself of its advantages in procuring editions of the best works of antiquity corrected by the ablest scholars, whose labours were rewarded b5 T his munificence. When the capture of Constantinople by the Turks caused the dispersion of many learned Greeks, he took advantage of the circumstance, to promote the study of the Greek language in Italy. It was now at Florence that this tongue was inculcated under the sanction of a public institution, either by native Greeks, or learned Italians, who were their powerful competitors, whose services were procured by the diligence of Lorenzo de Medici, and repaid by his bounty. “Hence,” says Mr. Roscoe, “succeeding scholars have been profuse of their acknowledgments to their great patron, who first formed that establishment, from which, to use their own classical figure, as from the Trojan horse, so many illustrious champions have sprung, and by means of which the knowledge of the Greek tongue was extended, not only through all Italy, but through France, Spain, Germany, and England; from all which countries numerous pupils attended at Florence, who diffused the learning they had there acquired throughout the rest of Europe.

The services of Lorenzo to the fine arts were not less conspicuous than those which he rendered to letters, by augmenting his father’s collection of the remains of antient taste and skill. It is not, however, on this account only that he is entitled to the esteem of the professors and admirers of the arts. He determined to excite, among his countrymen, a good taste, and, by proposing to their imitation the remains of the ancient masters, to elevate their views beyond the forms of common life, to the contemplation of that ideal beauty which alone distinguishes works of art from, mere mechanical productions. With this view he appropriated his gardens in Florence to the establishment of an academy for the study of the antique, which he furnished with a profusion of statues, busts, and other relics of art, the most perfect in their kind that he could procure. The | attention of the higher rank of his fellow-citizens was incited to these pursuits by the example of Lorenzo; that of the lower class by his liberality. To the latter he not only allowed competent stipends, while they attended to their studies, but appointed considerable premiums as rewards of their proficiency. To this institution, more than any other circumstance, Mr. Roscoe ascribes the sudden and astonishing proficiency which, towards the close of the 15th century, was evidently made in the arts, and which, commencing at Florence, extended itself to the rest of Europe. In 1488, his domestic comfort was much impaired by the loss of his wife; and after that his constitution appears to have given way, and in April 1492, he sunk under the debilitating power of a slow fever, and expired in the fortyfourth year of his age. For his general character, as well as the history of his "age, we must refer to the very interesting work from which this brief account has been taken.1