National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Giuliano de' Medici Andrea del Verrocchio (artist)
Florentine, 1435 - 1488
Giuliano de' Medici, c. 1475/1478
terracotta
overall: 61 x 66 x 28.3 cm (24 x 26 x 11 1/8 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.127
Not on View
From the Tour: Florentine Sculpture of the 15th Century
Object 7 of 8

Verrocchio's portrait bust of Giuliano de' Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent's younger brother by four years, may have been made in conjunction with the joust organized for his coming of age in 1475. In terms of intention and effect, it provides a telling contrast to the National Gallery's bust of Lorenzo. The two portraits were executed at different times for different purposes, but they illuminate the brothers well. Giuliano stiffly holds his head high in a confident and proud demeanor expected of a young man from a distinguished Florentine family. Outfitted in elegant armor decorated with a ferocious, winged head grimacing in passionate rage, Giuliano's figure commands obedience and compliance to his will.

Unfortunately for the Medici, other noble families of Florence were growing tired of their leadership. Inspired to unseat them, the Pazzi conspiracy unraveled during high mass in the Florentine Duomo on April 26, 1478. As originally conceived, the plan was to assassinate both brothers the evening before at a party in Lorenzo's villa. Yet Giuliano had remained home to nurse a leg wound. Wanting to avoid a possible escape by Giuliano, the conspirators postponed their assault until Sunday when both brothers would surely be at the morning service. There, the Pazzi henchmen waited for the signal—the priest raising the Host—before attacking. Lorenzo survived, escaping with only minor injuries, but Giuliano was instantly killed. To revenge his brother, Lorenzo strangled the last bit of power out of his enemies, murdered the Pazzi men, banished their women, and imprisoned their relatives.

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