Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Lorenzo Il Magnifico: Image and Anxiety, Politics and Finance

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Lorenzo Il Magnifico: Image and Anxiety, Politics and Finance

Article excerpt

Lorenzo il Magnifico: Image and Anxiety, Politics and Finance. By Melissa Meriam Bullard. [Istituto Nazionale di studi sul Rinascimento: Studi e testi, XXXIV] (Florence: Leo S. Olschki. 1994. Pp. xv, 245. Lire 58,000.)

This is a very important collection of eight articles by Melissa Bullard drawn together by a common concern with the fifteenth-century Florentine statesman, Lorenzo de' Medici. The concentration on one man is occasioned by a combination of two circumstances: the fifth centenary of Lorenzo's death in 1992, marked by conferences in the United States and Europe at which Bullard was a key speaker, and her collaborative work of more than a decade on an edition of Lorenzo's letters. This detailed and painstaking work has left Bullard in an enviable position of superiority vis-a-vis understanding the functioning of the Laurentian machine, and has enabled her to formulate new theories about the Magnifico himself, his inner circle, and the construction of his image.

The first section of the book contains, among others, two articles which propose convincing revisions to the accepted orthodoxies of Lorenzo's life. One introduces the concept of anxiety, arguing that Lorenzo's dissemination of an image of his own magnificence was initially a response to uncertainty, and that control of his public reputation (and as a byproduct the invention of the myth surrounding him) helped to compensate for his vulnerability. According to this reading, cult of personality deflected attention from personal and political shortfalls. The second article almost heretically suggests that Lorenzo was not a heroic superman who administered Florentine affairs single-handedly but a more prosaic corporate manager who delegated day-to-day tasks to a handpicked team of decision-makers. …

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