Renaissance Patronage: Giorgio’s story

Noah Kimmel, Writer

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Italy was becoming more and more powerful, not only economically but also culturally[1]. My home city, Florence, was the heart of all these new thoughts and art that was known as the Renaissance. The powerful Medicis ruled over Florence, specifically Lorenzo Medici, who also happened to teach me everything I know, and made me who I am today[2]. My name is Giorgio, and I am a lower class boy that just happened to have a knack for painting. Lorenzo saw this talent I had, and decided he would provide me with an education and his patronage. It was very unlikely that something like this occurs, wealthy elite helping out a lower class peasant, however, that’s just the type of person Lorenzo was, especially after the death of his brother, Giuliano. Giuliano’s death changed Lorenzo, the day that Giuliano was killed, Lorenzo was also supposed to be assassinated in the Pazzi plot planned out by Pope Sixtus IV and the Pazzi family[3]. These clashes between families, and clashes between the papacy and families were common because all anyone ever cared about was power[4]. Rome and Florence always compete for power between the Medici’s and other wealthy families of Florence, and the papacy, church, and pope in Rome[5]. When Giuliano died Lorenzo became less concerned with money and power, and took more of an interested in the arts. He not only wanted Florence to be a rich and powerful city, but also for it to be the cultural heart of Europe. Florence saw new art, and many innovations that bettered society[6].  He became very invested in funding artists’ works and giving them support. When Lorenzo and I first met he caught me painting on an old building. My heart dropped when I first saw him because he was surrounded by large guards, and I was sure I was going to be arrested. He walked towards me as his guards followed behind, but then he told them to wait. He approached me and asked, “Where did you learn to paint like this young boy?”

I froze up, but worked up the courage to reply, “I don’t know sir I just have been painting ever since I was four or three, no one ever really taught me anything.”

“Since you were 4 you say? How old are you know then?” he asked.

“Eight sir,” I replied.

“What is your name?”

“My name is Giorgio sir,”

“Well Giorgio you have quite a special talent here, why don’t you come with me?” His voice was very stern, but still kind and friendly. I replied “yes sir.” I remember that day better than any other day of my life. He introduced himself to me, and while I did not recognize him I knew the name of the great Medicis, and was in immediate shock when he told me who he was. Lorenzo knew I was poor, but it almost seemed not to bother him; he more fascinated that someone like me, an uneducated peasant, could paint that well. He told me that he might like to teach me more about painting, to progress my skills. He himself did not teach me the art of painting, I had a master who I was not too fond of; nethertheless I was happier than words could describe that I could even have an opportunity such as this. Lorenzo also provided me with a formal education something I never expected to receive in my lifetime. Lorenzo was the most powerful and wealthy man in Florence, and while he was known to be a patron to the arts, it was unheard of to teach a boy of my class about the arts[7].

Years passed as I learned and painted about Religion, and learned how to write and speak in proper etiquette. I studied all of the humanities, my favorite being art and music. The several years I spent with the Medici’s are ones I will never forget, I learned countless new things that changed my life forever. My last few years I was studying and practicing for the most part on my own. Lorenzo found his new prodigy named Michelangelo, and focused most of his time and effort of him[8]. This didn’t bother me, I only felt grateful to Lorenzo, and it was expected that he find a new student. Michelangelo was very different from me, he was born into wealth from a respectable Florentine family; Michelangelo also was much more talented than I was, and had a wider range of talents[9].  After I had stayed with the Medici’s for about 8 years, Lorenzo and I both agreed that it was time I should use my knowledge and talent and go out and make an impact on the world. I did not feel abandoned, he still provided me with a home, and food, however the first few months on my own were harsh. I struggled through many failures trying to show off and sell my talents, but it was no use, without any money or family name no one cared about me or my work, no one of course except Lorenzo. I woke up one morning and decided I was going to ask Lorenzo for his help. On the way there I was stopped by a man. It was a man I was familiar with, very familiar with, not only familiar to me, but to all of Florence. Leonardo da Vinci, a genius of the Renaissance, had stopped to talk to me, he looked and me and said, “Aren’t you the boy Lorenzo is working with?”

“Yes, well I was.” I replied.

“Was?” “Are you not anymore?” he asked.

“Correct sir, I am trying to find work on my own now.” I answered

Leonardo looked at me with interest, then he said, “Well how would you like to work with me?”

The relief I felt in that moment was a breath of fresh air, and I immediately replied, “Yes!, Yes! I would love to sir!” This was the second time in my life that I was lucky enough to have a mentor enter my life solely based off of a first appearance. I wondered just what it was that both Lorenzo and Leonardo both saw in me that convinced them to want to help me. So I asked Leonardo, “What do you see in me that is so special?”

“Well young Giorgio, you may not know your talents extents but I see a great painter in you, and coming from where you did is quite an amazing thing isn’t it now?” he answered.

He was right I was completely unique, no other painter had it as hard as I did. They didn’t have to worry about not having money or finding work because their families helped them with all of that. I had no family, my parents died of the plague, and it is a miracle that I’m still here. Leonardo then said to me, “Being a very talented well taught painter won’t make you the best artist, true amazing art comes from your emotions, which come from your experiences. I believe you will be a great painter one day Giorgio because I’ve seen your work it speaks to me.” I was still in shock that one of the most famous painters, inventors, and scientists of my time believed I was special[10]. I went on to work with Leonardo for a few years, practicing and perfecting my art.

Through the support and teachings of Lorenzo and Leonardo I became the man I am today. I now have worked on countless projects, that all started with one Nobleman who paid me to paint a portrait of his family to put in his study. I’ve worked with churches, and many other people including Lorenzo himself who hired me to paint a mural of a scene that came to him in a dream, and he was very pleased with my work. I’ll never forget the kindness both Lorenzo and Leonardo showed me. I have only them to attribute my success to. I now devote my life to making art that will make rich contributions to my home city of Florence; the art I make, just as Leonardo had said, expresses my emotions based off of my experiences in life, just as all good art should be, a product of one’s life.

[1] (Guisepi)

[2] (Grendler)

[3] (Aboutflorence.com)

[4] (“War Games”)

[5] (Norris)

[6] (Guisepi)

[7] (Lenihan)

[8] (Nepo)

[9] (Summers)

[10] (Summers)

 

Work Cited

Stinger, Charles L. “Sixtus IV.” World Book Student. World Book, 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Summers, David. “Michelangelo.” World Book Student. World Book, 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Grendler, Paul F. “Medici, Lorenzo de’.” World Book Student. World Book, 2017. Web. 17 Feb.

2017.

Summers, David. “Leonardo da Vinci.” World Book Student. World Book, 2017. Web. 17 Feb.

2017.

“War games.” Canada and the World Backgrounder, Apr. 1995, p. 8.

Go.galegroup.com. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017

Guisepi, Robert. Ancient Times. History-world.org. History World International, 2004. Web.

Feb. 17 2017.

Guisepi, Robert. Ancient Times. History-world.org. History World International, 2004. Web.

Feb. 17 2017.

Lenihan, Thomas. “ Medici Patronage & Italian Renaissance.” Academia.edu. Academia, 2008.

Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Norris, Michael. “The Papacy during the Renaissance.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.

Nepo, Mark. “Lorenzo and the Pazzi Conspiracy.” Jstor.org. The Massachusetts Review, 1987.

Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Aboutflorence.com. About Florence. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

“Giuliano de’ Medici.” nga.gov. National Gallery of Art, 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.