Lorenzo Il Magnifico
Under Lorenzo Magnifico, after the disastrous war with Naples was over, Florence seemed to have embarked upon a sea of prosperity. Guicciardini writes that the people enjoyed much peace and felicity provisions were abundant, business was thriving, festivities were perpetual; arts and crafts and all activities were encouraged, and learned men flourished due to the conditions accorded to them. In no other city of Italy were such art and learning conditions, and Florence, happy within her walls, reached the summit of glory and fame. Yet he is forced to conclude that under Lorenzo de' Medici, the city did not enjoy liberty, but that "it would have been impossible to have had a better and more agreeable tyrant."
Lorenzo de' Medici, and many another potentates, were named the Magnifico, but all the rest are forgotten, and he remained in history as the only bearer of the title, Lorenzo Il Magnifico.
The character of Lorenzo de' Medici is interesting and his attainments no less so. He has been called complex, but it has been point out that in fact he is quite the reverse of this, and that it is his versatility, his receptiveness and his naturalness that have produced that impression, because it is the way of most people to mistrust the obvious and to look for something subtle beneath simplicity: in a word, to be unable to believe that a man may be many-sided by nature and not by duplicity.
Dowered with a brilliant intellect, witty, vivacious, with genuine poetic and musical gifts, and a fine taste in art, perhaps his most useful qualities were his quickness of apprehension and sureness of his judgment. He was not a statesman of the first order, but his swiftness and resourcefulness often saved him.
He was a diplomat rather than a politician; business did not attract him, and his neglect of the commercial interests of his house was the cause of his worst crimes - the diverting of public money to his own use, and especially the robbery of the Monte delle Doti (the dowries of poor Florentine girls).
Lorenzo Magnifico's lavish expenditure of course only increased his popularity. Nothing is more popular than the spending of money, and the perpetual round of pageants and festivities, together with Canti Carnascialeschi, licentious songs which he composed for masquerades and sang in company with other young nobles, sapped the public morality, but at the same time occupied and diverted the people. Alongside of these Canti we have his religious Laude and many poems instinct with a peculiar love and understanding of nature: it is hardly necessary to call in question the sincerity of any of these. The Florentines were no less gratified with the position Lorenzo had created for himself and incidentally for the city. He was a power in Europe, and ambassadors were sent to him from East and West.
Lorenzo's marriage and interests
Lorenzo de' Medici had made a mariage de convenance, and it is probable that his morals left much to be desired, yet there is a great deal that is attractive about his domestic life. There is evidence that he treated his wife with respect and consideration, and that a real affection grew up between them, while he was certainly a devoted father, delighting in the company of his children, playing with them, writing for them, and taking infinite pains in directing their education.
Poliziano was chosen as the children's tutor, and, though this did not work very happily with regard to their mother, who tried to interfere in their studies, Piero seems to have done justice to his instructor and they always remained attached to each other.
Lorenzo himself had been brought up on Platonic philosophy, and had long been a shining member of the Platonic Academy. Probably his happiest hours were those occupied in literary and other disputes with the flower of the intellect of his time. Among the older men, Landini and Ficino, who had been his teachers, remained his friends and great respected his judgment. Ficino would never accept any preferment and remained a poor man to the end of his life. Though a constant admirer of Il Magnifico, he had the courage to administer blame and salutary advice.
Besides their interest in learning and notably in philosophy, they had another bond in their love of music. Ficino's recreation was to play on the lyre and the flute, and he was often called upon to come and play to his friend.
Lorenzo had no fewer than five organs, and gave much encouragement to the organist, Squarcialupi, to the beauty of whose organ-playing Alberti also testified. Of the younger set, Luigi Pulci and Matteo Franco, Poliziano and Pico de la Mirandola were Lorenzo Magnifico's chosen associates. The first two were poets and humorists, of a temper peculiarly congenial to the cynical and ironical moods of the Magnifico: they were his constant associates. Pulci had been a friend of Lorenzo's mother, and the Morgante Maggiore was written at her request, though not finished till after her death. Poliziano had come to Florence very young and very poor, and owed everything to Lorenzo Magnifico, who took him into his household. He became the greatest scholar and the most finished product of the time.