This bust of Lorenzo de' Medici is currently part of the Florentine Sculpture Collection at the National Gallery of Art(NGA) in Washington. It was returned to the collection in 2006 after a period of research and restoration spanning a decade.
Once believed to be a work of Michelangelo, the attribution eventually shifted to Andrea del Verrocchio and his collaboration with wax specialist Orsino Benintendi. In his Lives of The Artists, Vasari tells us 3 life sized wax figurines were made after the events of The Pazzi Conspiracy. The wax figures were dressed in Lorenzo's clothes, including the blood soaked bandages he wore after the attack. These wax figurines no longer exist, but it is believed this Terracotta bust is based on these original models. More information on the provenance of this piece is available from this page at the NGA website.
Pre/post restoration comparison.Years of grime were cleaned off in the painstaking restoration completed in 2006
The Pazzi attack on Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano in 1476, which resulted in Giuliano's death rocked the City. The ensuing retribution on The Pazzi Conspirators was swift and brutal. A number of artworks honour Giuliano posthumously, such as portraits by Botticelli , as well as his Venus and Mars, which many believe depict Giuliano as the character portrayed in Angelo Poliziano's La Giostra.
Detail of Botticelli's Venus & Mars. The handsome Knight, has been intoxicated by the mischievous little satyr, which clutches a fruit that has recently been the focus of much interesting discussion
This terracotta bust of Giuliano de' Medici is also at the NGA. It is directly attributed to Verrochio. Some speculate the armour depicted was that worn by Giuliano in his famous jousting victory in 1475.
Despite being called a 'benevolent tyrant' by contemporaries, Lorenzo de' Medici has become a much beloved figure of The Renaissance. Some admire his vision for a united Italy, whereas others are attracted to him because of his love of the Arts. Carrying on the tradition of patronage established by his grandfather Cosimo de' Medici, Lorenzo is perhaps best known to us as the Patron of Leonardo, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Botticelli (among many others).
Agnolo di Cosimo, commonly known as Bronzino painted this posthumous portrait of Lorenzo. It is quite obviously modelled on the Benintendi/Verrocchio Bust.
In a related piece also on display at the NGA, is Bertoldo di Giovanni's c.1478 medallion commemorating Lorenzo and the Pazzi attack.
The Benintendi/Verrocchio bust is an intriguing depiction of a personage who has since become an idealised figure, espousing the Humanist passion of the High Renaissance. Coupled with the tragic events of The Pazzi Conspiracy, it is also a macbre reminder of the violent lives led during a time we commonly attribute with great artworks and the rebirth of classical learning.
If you're ever in Washington, pay these pieces a visit!