Friday, May 5, 2017

Damn, Girl- Medici: Lucrezia Tornabuoni

So I've already talked about Medici: Masters of Florence a little bit, but the more research I do into the historical background of the Medicis of this era the more I feel compelled to write about them, particularly about the one of the two leading ladies of the show--Lucrezia Tornabuoni, because honestly, talk about a role model. This lady kicked ass in the political arena, provided significant services for the people of Florence, and was a major artistic patron, as well as an artist herself.

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Lucrezia in her youth painted by Piero Benci
Lucrezia was born into a powerful family, and married into another. Her husband, Piero, was later the head of the Medici bank, and was basically the ruler of Florence from 1464-1469. However, Piero was bedridden, so Lucrezia did most of the legwork--literally. That wasn't all she did though, Lucrezia was known for her charitable works and her writing as well.

As mentioned, Lucrezia did a lot of the legwork during her husband's time as leader of Florence. She settled disputes between citizens, received petitions, and acted as ambassador for the city, not something a woman of her era typically did. Her father-in-law, Cosimo de Medici, openly valued her advice, and admired her decision making skills. Lucrezia fostered good relations with her children and grandchildren, so when her son, Lorenzo the Magnificent, came to power she was able to advise him politically.

Lucrezia did a large number of charitable things during her lifetime. She was known for helping fund convents, particularly for donating cloth for nuns to use for their habits. She provided dowries for impoverished women so they could marry*, and took care of widows and orphans by seeing that their relatives were given church positions so that they could support their families.

She was also a keen businesswoman. Lucrezia owned several properties, and collected rents on shops, farms, and homes. Most notably, she purchased a defunct thermal bath in Bagno a Morbo, and refurbished the dump into a profitable business venture. In addition to this, she managed many of the Medici financial affairs while her husband Piero was bedridden with illness. She was known as a shrewd money manager, and her sons often looked to her for advice in this matter.


But the talents of this amazing woman don't stop there, Lucrezia was also a writer! Her fictional work is almost entirely religious in nature, comprising retelling of bible stories as well as sonnets and lyrical poems on religious topics. Her letters also survive, and can be found here.

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Lucrezia in her old age painted by Domenico
Ghirlandaio
Lucrezia was an incredible woman far ahead of her time. She's the sort of woman that I would want my daughters to be like, and the sort of woman that would be incredibly successful and popular today. One can only imagine what she might have accomplished politically if allowed to run for office!


*On a side note, completely unsupported by historical fact (as far as I know), I really like the idea of Lucrezia being a sort of love vigilante, providing dowries for girls so they could marry their true loves, and helping set people up. (Her mother-in-law, Contessina di Bardi, was known for arranging marriages, and she and Lucrezia were very close, so it's plausible that Lucrezia could have done the same, right?) Just imagine- Lucrezia Tornabuoni de' Medici-- political badass and Cupid's handmaiden. If I was going to write a historical fiction novel about her, this would be the premise.


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Sources
Monstrous Regiment of Women
Oxford Bibliographies
Medici Dynasty

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