From Publishers Weekly
Although a well-mined biography topic, the Medici dynasty continues to fascinate, and critic Unger (The Watercolors of Winslow Homer
) offers a smart, highly readable and abundantly researched book, making particularly good use of Medici family letters and earlier biographical sources such as Machiavelli's writings. Heir to a vast international banking empire and trading cartel with branches in Venice, London and Geneva, Lorenzo de' Medici (1449–1492) was born to rule. Naturally sociable and charismatic with a common touch, famous temper and cynical world view, the teenaged Lorenzo excelled in classics, riding, arms, archery and music. He pursued liaisons with both women and men, represented his sickly father, Piero, on an important diplomatic mission and thwarted his father's enemies during a legendary ambush. His accomplishments do not stop there: as Florence's de facto ruler, Lorenzo actively collaborated with the artist Botticelli, was a master tactician and diplomat, and survived a papal-sanctioned assassination attempt that claimed the life of his beloved brother. Renaissance Florence—where wealthy aristocrats rubbed shoulders with the poor on narrow city streets and whose art and intellectual life dazzled Europe—is itself an intriguing character, proving Unger's mastery over his facts. Illus. (May)
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The milieu of the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century always presents a puzzling dilemma. It was an epoch of constant political chaos when class antagonism, family rivalry, and intrigue and assassination were endemic, yet high culture flourished and left an immortal legacy in literature, architecture, painting, and sculpture. An excellent example of these streams is seen in the personality and career of Lorenzo (the Magnificent) de’ Medici. Unger, a contributing writer for the New York Times, lived for several years in Florence. He has written an excellent biography that deftly weaves Lorenzo’s story with the wider saga of politics and culture in both Florence and the other Italian city-states. Unger views Lorenzo as a compelling mix of aesthetics and action. He was a gifted poet, a wise philosopher, and a patron of the arts who loved beauty for its own sake. He was also a tough, shrewd battler who knew how to survive in a dog-eat-dog environment where he was constantly threatened by serpentine plots. This is an outstanding chronicle of the man and his time. --Jay Freeman