Italy - Famous Renaissance Men

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Federico da Montefeltro (Piero della Francesca, 1465-66

Federico da Montefeltro
1422 - 1482
Duke of Urbino, Patron of Humanists

Link: House of Montefeltro
Federico da Montefeltro

Federico da Montefeltro (7 June 1422 - 10 September 1482) was a famous mercenary captain and later Duke of Urbino. His fame as condottiero is only matched by his wide patronage of the arts and support of the growing humanist movement in Italy. His rise from count to duke was due in no small part to his success on the battlefield - it was told he never once lost a battle (Dennistoun, Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino p. 256). His well-preserved studiolo in Gubbio is a testament to his appreciation for humanistic studies and intellectual pursuits of the Italian Renaissance.

Federico was born in Gubbio, the natural son of Guidantonio da Montefeltro, count of Urbino, Gubbio and Casteldurante, and Duke of Spoleto (Papal States). As a young man he worked for the great captain Niccolo Piccinino, and earned his early fame by his exploits in the capture of the Fortress of St. Leo, thought to be unassailable. He worked also for Francesco Sforza, another mercenary turned prince, and won many battles and gained important territories for the Sforza and later for the Kingdom of Naples. Pope Pius II made him Gonfaloniere of the Holy Church in 1458, after which he defeated his old enemy Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (of Rimini) in conquering Pesaro. He was made Vicar of various territories that he conquered for the pope. he was a wise and careful ruler, and was held in high regard by all his peers as a model statesman.
In 1474 his daughter Giovanna married the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, Giovanni della Rovere. Sixtus made Federico Duke of Urbino at this time. This cemented their alliance against Florence during the Pazzi War (1478), in which it is now thought Federico supported the assassination of the Medici brothers. Federico died at the start of his alliance with Florence during Sixtus IV's 1482 campaign against Ferrara, in an allied effort to check the power of the papacy. He was eulogized by Giovanni Sanzio, Urbino court poet (and father of Raphael), as a glorious warrior and shining example of Renaissance prince - known then as "the Light of Italy." He supported translators and copyists of ancient classics - resulting in the third largest known library after the Vatican. The likes of artist/architect Leon Battista Alberti, painter Piero della Francesca, and humanist scholar Marcilio Ficino were products of his court. (Robert Kirkbride, Architecture and Memory: The Renaissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro, p.91-95)

The Meeting (detail) Andrea Mantegna

Leon Battista Alberti
1404 - 1472
Leon Battista Alberti

Renaissance historian Jacob Burckhardt relates how Leon Battista Alberti excelled at gymnastics and other sports, riding, taught himself music and Latin, and as a young adult generally achieved the highest skill in and mastered any occupation he tried. "...he held every human achievement which followed the laws of beauty for something almost divine." (The Civ of the Ren In Italy, p. 149). Alberti was one of the major figures of the Renaissance, an elaborate and experimenter of mathematical perspective and theoretician of art, architecture, and the physical laws of nature. The son of an exiled Florentine, he studied civil and canon law in Padua and Bologna, then at Rome he served as an "apostolic abbreviator" in 1432. This was where his interest in Classicism was first born: two years later he wrote "Descriptio Urbis Romae", the first systematic study on the reconstruction of the Roman city. Inspired by the art of antiquity, he elaborated the theory of beauty being harmony, that it can be expressed mathematically in every way and that the "proportions" of ancient and classical Roman buildings contain the basis of architectural design. This harmonic vision is to be found in all his work.

Visit his in-depth profile here: Renaissance Italy: Architecture - Leon Battista Alberti

Ludovico Maria Sforza Il Moro," Duke of Milan

Ludovico Maria Sforza
1452 - 1508
Duke of Milan,
Patron of Leonardo da Vinci
Ludovico Maria Sforza

Ludovico Maria Sforza, also known as "the Moor" (27 July 1452 - 27 May 1508) was an Italian statesman and patron of the arts. His father, the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, won the throne by military success and by marrying the last Visconti (illegitimate) heiress, Bianca Maria. After Francesco's death the throne went to Galeazzo Maria, another typical Renaissance prince. His son, Gian Galeazzo, was weak in mind and body and left state rule to his uncle Ludovico. Over time his power was limited, and by 1492 Ludovico had assumed all rights and honors befitting the duke. In 1491 he married an Este princess, Beatrice d'Este, sister of the cultured Isabella, Marchesa of Mantua. Northern Italy appeared to be unified (Mantua, Milan, Genoa, Ferrara, Modena) and stable.

Yet, Ludovico made a fatal blunder when he supported the 1494 invasion of Naples by Charles VIII of France. It is thought (Guicciardini) that he did so in order to fully limit the power and prestige of both Florence and Naples, leaving him as the sole (secular) arbiter of power in Italy. Between him and Pope Alexander VI, they would have control over the entire peninsula. In 1495 he was invested with the title of duke by his ally Emperor Maximilian I. The title legitimized his reign, but high taxation and the wars brought Milan from the pinnacle of wealth and power to a nadir by 1501. Ludovico's main claim to fame today, however, is his role as main patron of Leonardo da Vinci, who lived at the court of Milan and Pavia for 20 of his most productive years.The Moor commissioned the "Last Supper", had him repair and design bridges, machines, and repair fortresses. Ludovico Sforza was a good and strong ruler, but his foreign policy denied him a place in the annals of the great. After his wife's untimely death in 1497, he endured the conquest of Milan (twice) by the new French king, Louis XII who claimed the duchy as heir to his Visconti grandmother.

Visit his in-depth profile here: Historical Profile: Ludovico Maria Sforza

Leonardo - self portrait

Leonardo da Vinci
1452 - 1519

Lorenzo de Medici
Lorenzo de Medici
Lorenzo de' Medici

Born January 1 1449, died April 9 1492

Know as Lorenzo il Magnifico he was ruler of the Florentine Republic and was an Italian statesman and the facto of Italy. He was a politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets, by contemporary Florentines he was a diplomat. The Golden age of Florence was marked by his death. With his death various Italian States collapsed, after all what he did to maintain the peace between them. Lorenzo de' Medici is buried in the Medici Chapel in Florence.

Cosimo de Medici, Lorenzo's grandfather was the first member of the Medici family to combine running the Medici Bank with leading the Republic. He spend a very large portion of his fortune in philanthropy and in government, Cosimo was one of the wealthiest men in Europe. Also at the center of Florentine life, active as an art patron and collector was his father Piero the Gouty de Medici. His mother Lucrezia Tornabuoni was a writer of sonnets and a poet and became her son's adviser when he took over power.

He was tutored by a diplomat by the name of Gentile Becchi and he considered Lorenzo the brightest of five children in his home.

In an incident called the Pazzi Conspiracy backed by the Archbishop of Pisa and his patron Pope Sixtus IV, Lorenzo and his brother and co-ruler Giuliano were attacked in the Cathedral of Florence, the attackers managed to killed Giuliano and Lorenzo was stabbed, but managed to escaped. All this brutally conspiracy led to the lynching of the Archbishop of Pizza and most of the Pazzi family killed.

In 15th Century Renaissance artists such as Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli form part in Lorenzo's court.
Lorenzo helped this artist to secure their commissions from others patrons, because he did not commission many works himself.
For as long as five yearsMichelangelo lived with Lorenzo and his family,he attend meetings of the Neo-Platonic Academy, and he used to dine at the family table.

Lorenzo write poetry in his native Tuscan, he was an artist. Love, feast and light dominated his verse.

When Christopher Columbus would reach the " New World" at "The Age of Exploration" Lorenzo died six month later.

Confirmation of the Rule, Angelo Poliziano (detail)

Angelo Poliziano
1454 - 1494
Angelo Poliziano

Angelo Ambrogini, also known as Angelo Poliziano (Politian) was born on July 14, 1454, in Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. He was a great poet and humanist, spoke several languages including Greek, Italian, and Latin, and was noted for its ease in poetry, philosophy and philology. When his father died in May, 1464 The family remained mired in poverty and Angelo was sent to Florence in the year 1469. Angelo dedicated his first two books of his Latin translation of "The Iliad" to Lorenzo de Medici.

Angelo entered the Medici family in the year 1473 and also had the opportunity to study in the library of the Medici. In the year of 1475 he was awarded the education of the eldest son of Lorenzo d 'Medici, Piero who by then had 3 years.

One of his best verses in Latin and Greek were written between the years of 1473 and 1478, among them I can mention "In Violets and " In Regard to One's Daughters " Following an altercation with the wife of Lorenzo d 'Medici, Clarice Orsini, in May of 1479 Angelo was ejected from the Medici family and entered the Gonzaga Labour Court under the direction of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga. During his stay in Mantua wrote repeatedly to Lorenzo d 'Medici to return to Florence, and again in August of 1480 he returned to Florence, and was granted the education of the young Piero. Angelo this time he was admitted at the home of the Medici family and that was located on the outskirts of Florence. In the year of 1488 was part of a diplomatic mission Pope Innocent VIII, and in 1491 he went to Bologna, Ferrara, Padua and Venice, to trace manuscripts for the library of the Medici family. Angelo spent the last days of his life in Florence.

Guidobaldo da Montefeltro

Guidobaldo da Montefeltro
1472 - 1508
Guidobaldo da Montefeltro

Born in Gubbio in the year 1472, he succeeded his father as Duke Federico da Montefeltro of Urbino in 1482. He married the sister of Francesco II Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, Elizabetta Gonzaga. Guidobaldo and Elizabetta had no children because Guidobaldo was impotent. But Elizabeth refused to give divorce out of her deep respect for him. He was in command of the papal troops in support of the French during the first Italian campaign by Charles VIII in the French conquest of Naples. He was later condottiero for Venice, this time against King Charles (1496). Guidobaldo was taken prisoner by the troops of the Orsini and Vitelli, while fighting for the Pope near the Castle of Bracciano, he was released after paying his own ransom. In 1502 Guidobaldo was forced to flee Urbino, in the wake of the conquest of Cesare Borgia, but returned to his rightful place as duke after the death of Pope Alexander VI in 1503. He adopted the new pope (Julius II's) nephew, Francesco Maria della Rovere, and made him heir to the duchy.

Baldassare Castiglione based his book The Book of the Courtier on the ladies and gentlemen who frequented Guidobaldo's court between about 1492 and 1502. The main charcters were Elizabetta Gonzaga, Emilia Pia, Giovanni and Guiliano de Medici, Pietro Bembo, Ludovico Ariosto, and Ottaviano Fregoso. Guidobaldo died of pellagra, an easily preventable disease caused by a vitamin deficiency.

Baldasssare Castiglione

Baldassare Castiglione

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli 1469-1527
Niccolo Machiavelli

Born 3 May 1469, died June 21 1527. He was one of the main founders of modern political science. He was born in Florence by the name of Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli. When the Medici fled in (1493) he saw the troubles of the French invasion.
He held the secretary of the ten since 1498, until the fall of the Republic in 1512.

Niccolo was employed in a variety of very important missions, including four to France and one to the Emperor Maximilian. His treatises of the affair of France and Germany, and his dispatches during these journeys, are full of far reaching insight.

Machiavelli was involved in the downfall of his patron Gonfaloniere Soderini, during the restoration of the Medici. He was put to torture in 1513 when he was arrested on a charged of conspiracy. He was pardoned, he devoted himself to literature, because he was obliged to retire from the public life. Few year past, and Pope Leo X commissioned Machiavelli to draw up his report on a form of the state of Florence, in 1519. Later he was employed as a historiographer in diplomatic services in 1521-25.

Before the advancing forces of the Emperor Charles V, Italy was complete helpless. Once again the Medici were drove out of the Republic by the Florentines in May 1527, and bitterly disappointed that he was to be allowed no part in the movement for liberty, Machiavelli in declining health, died in June 21.

Machiavelli's writings consist of the following works: Historical: "Storie Fiorentine", which goes from the fall of the Empire to 1492, dedicated to Clement VII, at whose request it had been written. "Descrizione del modo tenuto dal duca Valentino nello ammazzare Vitellozzo Vitelli, etc."; "Vita di Castruccio Castracane"; "Discorsi sopra laprima deca di Tito Livio"; "Descrizione della peste di Firenze dell' anno 1527"; to this group belong also his letters from his embassies as well as his minor writings concerning the affairs of Pisa, Lucca, France, Germany. Political: "Il Principe", "Discorso sopra il Riformare lo Stato di Firenze"; "Dell'arte della guerra", and other military works. Literary: "Dialogo sulle lingue"; five comedies: "Mandragola"; "Clizia"; a comedy in prose; "The Andria" of Terence, a translation; a comedy in verse; "I Decennati" (a metrical history of the years 1495-1504); "Dell' Asino d'oro", writings on moral subjects; "La serenata"; "Canti Carnas cialesehi"; a novel, "Belfagor", › Catholic Encyclopedia

Visit Niccolo Machiavelli Historical Profile

Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici
Giuliano de Medici
Giuliano di Lorenzo de Medici

Born March 12 1479, died March 17, 1516. He was the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and an Italian nobleman. Giuliano was born in Florence, Italy and he has two brothers name Piero and Giovanni de Medici.Until the republican faction drove out the Medici in 1494, his older brother Piero was for a short period of time the ruler of Florence after Lorenzo's death.Then Giuliano moved to Venice.
After the Holy League drove the French forces that had supported the Florentines republicans from Italy, the Medici family was restored to power again.The headed of this effort was from Spain.From 1512 to 1516 Giuliano reigned at Florence.
Thanks to the intercession of his brother Giovanni now Pope Leo X, he married Filiberta (1498-1524) a princess of the house of Savoy on 22 February 1515 at the court of France; (Filiberta's nephew) Frances I of France,invested him with the tittle of Duke of Nemours (once again had recently reverted to the French crown) on the occasion.Apparently the French were also grooming him for the throne of Naples.

Giuliano was followed at Florence by his nephew Lorenzo, after he died prematurely. Giuliano had only one son, who became cardinal, he was Ipopolito de Medici.

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Muzio Attendolo Sforza-Italian Condottiero
Muzio Attendolo Sforza

Born May 28 1369, died January 4, 1424. At the battle of Casalecchio, he led the Bolognese-Florentine army and he was the founder of the Sforza dynasty. For sixteen years Milan was ruled by Francesco Sforza, his father. He born into a rich family of rural nobility in Cotignola ( Romana), his birth name was Jacopo Attendolo. He also had a nickname of Giacomusso and Muzio or Muzzo.

Boldrino da Panicale was the head of a platoon or troop that was looking for recruiting mercenaries. One day according to tradition the boy, Giacomo was plowing the field, and when he saw the platoon passing by he stole one of his father horses and followed the troop and this is how he start his condottiero career. According to history and tradition Muzio had a very strong body constitution, that is why when he joined the company of Aberico da Barbiano with his three brothers and two cousins, Alberico give him the nickname "Sforza" ("Strong") . He possesses the ability to reverse the fortunes of battles.

He was at the service of the Perugian troops against of Gian Galiazzo Visconti who was in the Milanese troops,and following the typical behavior of a chieftains of that time he soon switched his loyalty to Gian Galeazzo Visconti in 1398.

In 1402 he was defeated by his former master Alberico Barbiano at the battle of Caslecchio. Before this he was fighting against Visconti. He was hired by Niccolo III d' Este of Ferrara who was being menaced by Ottobono Terzi of Parma in 1406 when Muzio captured Pisa.

Portrait of Piero de' Medici by Agnolo Bronzino.

Piero de Medici
1472 - 1503
Piero de Medici

Piero was called Piero the Unfortunate. Until his exile in 1492 to 1494, he was the Gran Maestro of Florence. Born in Florence he was the older brother of Pope Leo X, and he was the oldest son of Lorenzo de Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent ) and Clarice Orsini. He was so arrogant and feeble, and undisciplined because of this he could not rule well for the position he was educated for. He was well educated to succeed his father as head of the Medici family and (de facto) ruler of Florentine State.

In 1492 he took Florence. In Order to take the Kingdom of Naples, to claim hereditary rights, of the Italian States, constructed by Piero's father, collapsed in 1494, after King Charles VIII of France crossed the Alps with his army. Ludovico Sforza ( Ludovico il Moro ) lured Charles from Italy and he wanted to replaced his nephew Gian Galeazzo Sforza as a Duke. Charles went towards Naples after settling matters in Milan. He needed to do 3 things, secure his lines of communication with Milan, pass through Tuscany and leave his troops there. Charles intended to invade Tuscany and find very unacceptable the decision of Piero to stay neutral. The Florentine elite did not support Piero's attempted to mount a resistance, and besides the fanatical Dominican priest already influenced them, even Piero's cousins defected to Charles side. Piero quickly gave up and he had to give Charles everything he demanded. The Medici family had to flee from Florence because Piero did not handle the situation in betters terms.

With the Medici family exile the family palazzo was subsequently looted and the Republic of Florence was re-established. Until 1512 the family were not to rule in Florence again. With the help of Philippe Commines, Piero family at first fled to Venice. The struggle in Italy continued over the Kingdom of Naples, between France and Spain in 1503. When the French army lost the battle, Piero was drowned in the Girolamo River while attempting to flee (with whom he was allied).

Portrait by Bronzino

Cosimo di Giovanni Degli Medici
Cosimo di Gionvanni Degli Medici

Born September 27, 1389, died August 1, 1464

During much of the Italian Renaissance, Cosimo also know as " the Elder ( "il Vecchio") and Cosimo Pater Patriae was the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence.

Born in Florence, Cosimo inherited from his father Giovanni di Bicci di Medici, both his wealth and his expertise in business. In the same year that he was named Priore of t he Republic in 1415 he accompanied the Antipope John XXIII at the council of Constance.
Showing a prudence for which he became renowned, he acted frequently as ambassador.

Cosimo took power over Florence in 1433, led by the figures such as Palla Strozzi and Rinaldo Degli Albizzi, Cosimo began to look like a menace to the anti-Medici party and as well occupying public office; he was accused for the failure of the conquest of Lucca and in September of the same year he was imprisoned and he turn the jail term into one of exile. Others followed him, prompted by his influence and his money, the ban of exile has to be lifted, because within a year people left Florence. In 1434 Cosimo returned to Florence after a year of absence, and he was to lead the city for the rest of his long life. During the wars in Lombardy he was trying to create a balance of power between Florence, Naples, Venice, and Milan so by doing this he stopped (notably the French and the Holy Roman Empire) from interfering.

He moved the Ecumenical council of Ferrara to Florence, he was instrumental in convincing Pope Eugene IV in 1439. To create the magnificent Palazzo Medici he hired the young Michelozzo Michelozzi. He died at Careggi in 1464, and Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero " the Gouty" his father was Lorenzo the Magnificent of Il Magnifico. "Father of his Country" was the title the Signoria awarded him with.

Lorenzo il popolano, xv century.jpg

Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici
Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici

Born August 4, 1463 - died May 20, 1503. He was the brother of Giovanni de Medici il Popolano and his nickname was the Popolano. He was a politician and a banker. Born in Florence, his mother was Laudomia Acciaioli and his father Pierfrancesco de Medici ( the Elder). He studied under the figures such as Marsilo Ficino and Agelo Poliziano, and he went under the tutelage of his cousin Lorenzo ( il Magnifico) after the death of his father. He was sent as ambassador to France in 1483.

Alessandro de Medici was killed by his grandson Lorenzino de Medici, Alessandro de Medici was the last ruler of Florence from the "senior" branch of the Medici. Then all the power pass to Cosimo I de Medici, Lorenzo great-grandson. Cosimo de Medici was the propietor of the Villa de Castello and the Villa del Trebbio. When Lorenzo il Magnifico denied Lorenzo and Giovanni their inheritance, their relations deteriorated. Lorenzo and Giovanni side against Piero (il Fatuo) when il Magnifico died in (1492).

When King Charles VIII of France invaded Italy, Lorenzo and Giovanni return after 2 years of their exile, and at the same time Piero was ousted from Florence by a Republican government. The two brothers received the nick name Popolano ( "Popular") when they sided with the Republican party. With the new administration Lorenzo became one of the most outstanding figures and he was regarded by many as the cultural heir of il Magnifico.

He was the protector of Bartolomeo Scala, Filipoino Lippi, Botticelli and Michelangelo, and at Cafaggiolo in 1494 he founded a workshop of ceramics. Eventually he refused the effective personal rule of the Republic, given to him after Savonarola died.

Together with Cesare Borgia, Lorenzo was suspected of a plot in the conquest of the city in 1501, but the accusations were never confirmed. He died in Florence in 1503.

One of the most famous paintings of the Renaissance, The Allegory of Spring and the Birth of Venus, Lorenzo il Popolano may have commissioned from Botticelli.

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