Upon reading the magnificent The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, I was profoundly struck by how purposeful the Medici family lived their lives. This single powerful family enabled the creative explosion of the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Their creativity and purpose in banking, politics and art colors the canvas of our lives to this day.
The Medici court included artists such as Piero and Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Michelangelo Buonarroti who were all crucially involved in the 15th century Renaissance. The Medici family money helped these artists flourish and they also secured commissions for them from other patrons. Michelangelo lived with Lorenzo Medici and his family for several years, dining at the family table and attending meetings of the Neo-Platonic Academy.
One of the most significant times of my life came as I entered the sensory overload of the Medici burial chapel and viewed Michelangelo’s depictions of Day & Night and Dusk & Dawn. These works of genius say more about the human condition than can be absorbed in one viewing.
What if Michelangelo had never discovered a patron like the Medici Family? The world would be absent of the greatest works of art created by a single human being—David, the Sistine chapel, the Vatican, the Pieta, and so much more.
A careful study of the Medici family reveals powerful truths for creatives (and business people) that truly wish to change culture.
1.) Partying with Purpose—Lorenzo di Medici was accused of debauchery and excess by the religious zealot Savonarola for his lavish parties. However, those parties provided opportunities to bring prospective patrons and artists together, to introduce them, to showcase the artist’s work, and to create mutual community. Stone does a fascinating job describing Medici’s use of charisma, charm and ability to gather and form collaborations with diverse personalities. He always established several goals he wished to accomplish at each party. The purposeful invitation list, specific food and wine all combined to meet the goals of this artist/businessman who reveled in procuring monies for artists such as Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo.
2.) Gathering Creative People Together—Part of the Medici genius was in gathering the right people together. The crucial aspect to these gatherings was later emulated in history during the salons of the French Revolution. The Medici’s gathered influencers and patrons from various disciplines of finance, medicine, education and religion who had the capacity to understand the need for great art and to fund it.
3.) Making Money To Patronize the Arts—Those of us who have been given the talent to make money should realize that a responsibility comes with that gift. My life coach urged me many years ago to use my entrepreneurial abilities to fund creatives. I now live to make money to train and fund artists. It is a legacy. Vincent Van Gogh said, “When you give money to artists, you are yourself doing an artist’s work.” The Medici family understood this principle perhaps better than any family in history. When was the last time you gave money to an artist or purchased an original piece of art? Do you have an annual budget line item specifically to patronize the arts?
4.) Patronizing Artists Who are Better Than You—Even though several of the Medici’s were artists, they were secure enough in themselves to patronize others who were far greater. Many would-be artists have bought into a scarsity principle instead of the abundance principle. Even those of us who are artists need to patronize those in which we recognize great talent and at rare times, genius. I daresay, even the most discerning art critic among us would be hard-pressed to name a Medici painting, but all of us can readily name a work of art by DaVinci, Botticelli or Michelangelo.
5.) Creating Enterprise To Fund Local Artists—The biblical “prophet is without honor in his own country” unfortunately still holds true in most communities. It is distressing to me when I see cities filled with creatives such as my own beloved Franklin, Tennessee who continually contract artists from outside areas, when they have local artists who can do the work and yet are struggling to eek out a living. We need to patronize our local artists by awarding them contracts, and allowing them to design our buildings and decorate our homes. The Medici family knew how to support and encourage local artists in Florence and in doing so created a lasting culture of creativity.
I would value your thoughts and conversation in this area. America is losing her creatives by the thousands. We need them desperately. What are more ways that will help us keep them here?