Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

T is for Lucrezia Tornabuoni

Lucrezia Tornabuoni (22 June 1427 – 25 March 1482) was a writer and influential political adviser. Connected by birth to two of the most powerful families in 15th-century Italy she later married Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici, connecting herself 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 that of her son, Lorenzo. She worked to support the needs of the poor and religion in the region, supporting several institutions. She was a patron of the arts, and also wrote poems and plays herself.

Lucrezia and Piero had eight children, including Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449–1492). Piero presented Lucrezia with a desco da parto showing the Triumph of Fame by Giovanni di ser Giovanni Guidi, to celebrate the birth of their first son and heir. Piero and Lucrezia hired tutors, Gentile de’ Becchi and Cristoforo Landino among them, to educate their children in such subjects as philosophy, business, and politics, and to ensure that they acquired good taste in literary culture and the fine arts.

Lucrezia wrote religious stories, plays, and poetry. She read her poems to famous poets, comparing them with their compositions. Some of her poems were set to popular tunes and performed publicly, and published four years after she died.. She wrote stories about Esther, Susanna, Tobias, John the Baptist and Judith, in part to inspire and educate her grandchildren.

A significant patron of the arts, Lucrezia commissioned the Morgante by Luigi Pulci, who called her “a famous lady in our century.” She also supported the poet Angelo Poliziano, who was also a tutor for her grandchildren by Lorenzo. He would read Lucrezia’s poems to them. Lucrezia was a patron of Bernardo Bellincioni, with whom she would exchange humorous poems that they had written.

Lucrezia also supported several religious institutions. She was responsible for the addition of the Chapel of the Visitation in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence. When Lucrezia recovered from an illness in 1467, she believed it was due to the intercession of Saint Romuald, and supported the hermitage at Camaldoli which he had founded.

Around 1475, Lucrezia’s brother Giovanni Tornabuoni commissioned a portrait of her by Domenico Ghirlandaio, which is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She may also 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.

Tornabuoni, Lucrezia, 1425-1482. Sacred narratives. Edited and translated by Jane Tylus. University of Chicago Press, 2001.

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