Lucrezia Tornabuoni (22 June 1427 – 25 March 1482) was an Italian author and influential political adviser during the fifteenth century. Connected by birth to two of the most powerful Italian families of the time, she married Piero di Cosimo de' Medici, connecting her to another of the most powerful families in Italy and extending her own power and influence. She had significant political influence during the rule of her husband and then of her son, Lorenzo. She also worked to support the needs of the poor and religion in the region, supporting several institutions. She was a patron of the arts and was the author of poems and plays.
|Lady of Florence|
Portrait of Lucrezia Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c.1475, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
|Born||22 June 1427|
|Died||25 March 1482 54) (aged|
|Spouse(s)||Piero di Cosimo de' Medici|
Lucrezia (called Nannina)
Lorenzo the Magnificent
Giuliano de' Medici
|Father||Francesco di Simone Tornabuoni|
|Mother||Nanna di Niccolo di Luigi Guicciardini|
Family and marriage
Lucrezia was born on 22 June 1427. Her mother was Nanna di Niccolo di Luigi Guicciardini, and her father was Francesco di Simone Tornabuoni, a noble from a family that could trace its lineage back 500 years. Lucrezia was well-educated and read many texts, including in Latin and Greek. On 3 Jun 1444, Lucrezia married Piero di Cosimo de' Medici, son of Cosimo de' Medici, a wealthy banker from Florence. Her father, Francesco, was a friend and supporter of Cosimo, even through Cosimo's 1434 exile from Florence. The marriage and her dowry of 1200 florins helped to seal the alliance between their families.
The health of the couple was not always good, with Piero's gout and Lucrezia suffering from arthritis and eczema. These conditions caused her to seek treatments at baths around Tuscany. She and her husband frequently wrote to each other while apart, with tenderness and concern. She became a good friend of her brother-in-law, Giovanni.
Lucrezia and Piero had the following children:
- Maria (died before 1473), married Leonetto Rossi 
- Bianca (1445-1488), married Guglielmo Pazzi 
- Lucrezia de' Medici (1447–1493), married Bernardo Rucellai, also known as Nannina 
- Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492), Lord of Florence and was married to Clarice Orsini 
- Giuliano de' Medici (1453–1478), father of Pope Clement VII 
Maria may have been a child born to Piero by another woman, but she was raised by Lucrezia and Piero with the other children. Lucrezia also bore two sons and a daughter who did not survive to adulthood.  To celebrate the birth of Lorenzo, their first son and heir, Piero presented Lucrezia with a desco da parto showing the Triumph of Fame by Giovanni di ser Giovanni Guidi. Their younger son, Giuliano, was killed in 1478 as a result of the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici.
Lucrezia and Piero made sure that their children acquired good taste in literary culture and the fine arts. They hired tutors to educate them in such subjects as philosophy, business and accounting, and politics. Gentile de' Becchi and Cristoforo Landino were among the teachers hired.
Lucrezia and Piero wanted to increase their influence outside of Florence, especially in the Roman courts. To improve the family's social status, Lucrezia arranged for her son, Lorenzo, to marry Clarice Orsini. Clarice's dowry was 6,000 florins. She arrived in Florence in June 1469. Unfortunately, Lorenzo wasn't very fond of his bride.
Since, in contrast to her husband, Lucrezia was of a noble line, she created bridges between her husband's family and the nobility. Her advice was sought by many and she received both high and low-born people. Her father-in-law admired her skills in deciding issues. In 1450 she and her husband visited Rome for an audience with Pope Nicholas V, who gave them permission to build an altar in their family chapel.
When Piero took over the government in 1464, his health kept him confined to bed. This transformed their bedroom into something resembling a noble court. His confinement meant that often, as Lucrezia was more free to move about, she was asked by others to bear their requests to him. This included appeals to end the exile or imprisonment of petitioners, and to stop attacks by soldiers. She also was called on to mediate disputes among others in the area, once ending a feud between two families that had gone on for twenty years.
In spring 1467, she again visited Rome and the Pope, while seeking women suitable to marry her son, Lorenzo. For a woman to travel without her husband and meet with the Pope and other influential officials such as this, was unusual, and it was commented upon by contemporaries. In October 1467, as part of a rivalry between Piero and Luca Pitti, there was an assassination attempt against Lucrezia and her son Giuliano.
Lucrezia's husband, Piero, died in 1469. After his death, she gained additional political influence as an advisor to her son, Lorenzo, who freely admitted at her death that she had been one of his most important advisors.
She also gained more freedom to conduct business and own property. She bought houses, shops, and farms in and around Pisa and Florence. She would lease the shops out to different businesses, and thereby extended her patronage network. In 1477, she took a lease on a public bath facility near Volterra, which she renovated into a profitable venture. Lucrezia's investments in communities around Florence helped spread the family influence and support network.
She became well known for supporting religious convents and working with them to help widows and orphans. Often, this assistance was provided by helping a family member to get a good position in the church or government. She also used her own income to provide dowries for women from poor families, so that they could marry.
Lucrezia died on 25 March 1482 after suffering from an illness. By the time of her death, she had many grandchildren.
Lucrezia wrote religious stories, plays, and poetry. She read some of her poems to famous poets, comparing them to their compositions. Some of her poems were set to popular tunes and performed publicly. Her poetry was printed and published four years after she died. She wrote stories about Esther, Susanna, Tobias, John the Baptist, and Judith. In part, her works were written to inspire and educate her grandchildren. Her plays were not performed publicly until after her death.
She was a significant patron of the arts, as well. She recommended poets in her circle to use chivalric themes, which some of them did. She commissioned the Morgante, by Luigi Pulci, who called her "a famous lady in our century". She also supported the poets Angelo Poliziano and Bernardo Bellincioni. She and Bellincioni would exchange humorous poems that they had written. Poliziano admired her poetry. He was also a tutor for her grandchildren by Lorenzo, and would read her poems to them.
Religious institutions relied on Lucrezia's patronage. She was responsible for the addition of the Chapel of the Visitation in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. She was known to be devoted to John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence. When she became ill in 1467, she believed her recovery was due to the intercession of Saint Romuald. From then on, she supported the hermitage that he had founded at Camaldoli. She was also noted for donating many votive statues of her and her family to numerous churches.
Around 1475, her brother Giovanni Tornabuoni commissioned a portrait of her by Domenico Ghirlandaio, which is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (shown above). She also may be represented in three scenes in Ghirlandaio's frescos in the Tornabuoni Chapel: The Visitation, The Birth of the Baptist, and The Nativity of Mary.
A young Lucrezia Tornabuoni is portrayed by Valentina Bellè in the 2016 television series, Medici: Masters of Florence. An older Tornabuoni will be portrayed by Sarah Parish in the second series.
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