Christianity and the Renaissance: Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento

By Timothy Verdon; John Henderson | Go to book overview

he finally did write to Lorenzo in early 1487, he did so on behalf of his orphaned niece and nephew, his brother Cherubino's children, who were in his care. "Indeed, Lorenzo, philosophy bids me to be content to live on that which I once received from you. But the nephews in my house truly cannot be satisfied with so little." 61

To some, Ficino's attitude toward the Medici might seem inconsistent, even compromising at times. It was certainly complex. But the central point in this whole discussion is not so much that Ficino was willing to accept the patronage of the Medici, but the way in which he chose to accept it. If Ficino managed to preserve his personal integrity, his success was due to the fact that he followed his own moral and ethical path. He never succumbed to total dependency upon his Medici benefactors, as Alessandro Cortesi did, or accepted the kind of clientage of the court which was coming to characterize the cultural ambience of the late Renaissance. He had experienced with Cosimo the value of a life lived virtuously and with Cavalcanti the power of love, and with both of them, friendship. These values reached beyond any social or political structure or patronage system, and by preserving them, Ficino gave himself the chance to maintain his personal and intellectual autonomy. In late 1487, if Lorenzo was particularly delicate in the way he handled the appointment of Ficino as canon, so striking in its contrast to his usual mode of operation with abundant fanfare, it was probably out of respect for and understanding of his old teacher's ways. Even though over the years their paths had diverged and Lorenzo had given up philosophy for politics, perhaps he still remembered what Ficino had taught him about the value of friendship and its true aims even within the framework of patronage.


NOTES

We all build upon foundations laid by others. Anyone who studies Ficino today owes an immense debt to Nul Oskar Kristeller, whose indefatigable scholarship has kept Ficino's thought alive and made the major corpus of his writings accessible in print. Raymond Marcel's sensitive biography of Ficino has been the point of departure for my consideration of the relation between his life and his works. The present article emerged from the conjunction of three additional elements: my archival research for

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