Lorenzo de’ Medici, the learned, charismatic, and ruthless head of a wealthy banking family, ruled the Italian Renaissance city-state of Florence from 1469 to 1492, in the time of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Botticelli (1446–1510), and the young Michelangelo (1475–1564). The simple costume he wears in this bust, including a distinctively Florentine padded and draped headdress called a cappuccio, reflects Lorenzo’s claim to be merely a respected citizen rather than a de facto prince. Cleaning in recent years has brought out original colors, including bright reds, warm flesh tones, and a light beard. The brooding face suggests the forceful intelligence behind Lorenzo’s power. Resemblance to his death mask, from which the face may have been molded, makes this a haunting likeness.

The Gallery’s bust is believed to perpetuate features of a wax statue of Lorenzo, one of several made in 1478 and placed in Florentine churches to commemorate his survival of an assassination attempt. Known as the Pazzi conspiracy, the attack in the Florence cathedral during mass took the life of Lorenzo’s younger brother, Giuliano. Lorenzo’s costume is arranged in an unusual manner. The long panel of cloth descending from the headdress on his right (a section has been lost) completely encircles his neck. In other Florentine portraits that panel simply falls down the wearer’s chest or crosses it to fall down the back. The exceptional arrangement may be evidence of a connection with the 1478 statues. One of those wax images was dressed in the very clothes Lorenzo had worn when he appeared with his throat bandaged at a window on the evening of April 26, 1478, to show the people he was still alive. The encircling panel of cloth could be a style Lorenzo devised specifically for that occasion, to call attention to his wounded neck.

Lorenzo as a rule did not order large public portraits of himself. The lifetime portraits that survive are primarily medals, which are small, portable objects that could be circulated among friends and political contacts. The National Gallery of Art owns several of these, including Bertoldo di Giovanni’s Lorenzo de’ Medici, il Magnifico, 1449–1492 (The Pazzi Conspiracy Medal) [obverse] and Niccolò Fiorentino’s Lorenzo de’ Medici, il Magnifico, 1449–1492 [obverse]. The life-sized wax statues of 1478 were an exception created for a special purpose, making this bust, which probably perpetuates them, a rare and valuable artifact.


Marks and Labels



Alessandro Rivani [1746-c. 1832], Florence.[1] Carlo Ernesto Liverati [1805-1844], Florence, until c. 1835;[2] Rev. John Sanford [1777-1855], Florence and London;[3] sold c. 1841 to Edward Nicholls Dennys, London, until at least 1850.[4] Henry Labouchere, 1st baron Taunton [1798-1869], Stoke Park, Over-Stowey, Somersetshire, by 1862; by inheritance to his son-in-law, Edward James Stanley [1826-1907], Quantock Lodge, Bridgewater, Somersetshire; by inheritance to his son, Edward Arthur Vesey Stanley [1879-1941], Quantock Lodge;[5] (his sale, Sotheby's, London, 16 July 1920, no. 17);[6] probably purchased by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[7] sold to Clarence H. Mackay [1874-1938], Roslyn, New York, by 1923;[8] his estate; sold 1940 through (Jacques Seligmann and Co., New York) to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[9] purchased 1941 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1943 to NGA.

Exhibition History
Works of Ancient and Mediaeval Art, The House of the Society of Arts, London, 1850, no. 617, as Attributed to Michelangelo.
Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and more recent periods, South Kensington Museum, London, 1862-1864, no. 1, as Florentine 15th Century.
Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. A-146.
Verrocchio's David Restored: A Renaissance Bronze from the National Museum of the Bargello, Florence, National Museum of the Bargello, Florence; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2004, not in catalogue (shown only in Washington).
Florenz!, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, 2013-2014, no. 109, repro.
Nello splendore mediceo: Papa Leone X e Firenze, Museo delle Cappelle Mediceee e Casa Buonarroti, Florence, 2013, no. 8, repro.
Trapesnikoff, Trifon. Die Porträtdarstellungen der Mediceer des XV Jahrhunderts. Strassburg, 1909: 49-50, repro.
Sherman, Frederic F. "Italian Portrait Paintings and Busts of the Quattrocento." Art in America 12, n. 1 (December 1923): 5, repro.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "The Clarence H. Mackay Collection." Art in America 13, no. 5 (1925): 250-251, fig.7.
Valentiner, W.R. The Clarence H. Mackay Collection. New York, 1926: 6, 9-10, no. 14, repro.
Westheim, Paul, ed. "Achtung, Falschkunst! Fälscher und Kenner." Das Kunstblatt 14 (July 1930): 204, repro.
Warburg, Aby. Die Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike: kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der europäischen Renaissance. 2 vols. Leipzig and Berlin, 1932:1:99, n. 2.
Bertini, Aldo. "L'arte del Verrocchio." L'Arte 38 (November 1935): 462, n. 2.
"Professor Volpi Publishes Verrocchio Work." Art News 33 (Saturday, June 1, 1935): 12, repro.
Volpi, Elia. Lorenzo de' Medici: Busto in terracotta opera di Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488). Città di Castello, 1935: not paginated, repro.
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: 23.
Duveen Brothers, Inc. Duveen Sculpture in Public Collections of America: A Catalog Raisonné with illustrations of Italian Renaissance Sculptures by the Great Masters which have passed through the House of Duveen. New York, 1944: figs. 145-149.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Another Great Kress Gift to the National Gallery." Art News 42 (November 1-14, 1944): not paginated.
Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 10, repro.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 186, repro.
Seymour, Charles. Masterpieces of Sculpture from the National Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1949: 179, n. 36, repro. 117-119.
Finley, David E. "Museum Director's Choice: From great art in public collections experts select their favorite works." Life (February 21, 1955): 94, repro.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 404, repro.
Seymour, Charles Jr. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961: 45, fig. 39.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 173.
Covi, Dario. “Four new documents concerning Andrea del Verrocchio.” The Art Bulletin 48, n. 1 (March 1966): 101-103.
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 152, repro.
Passavant, Günter. Verrocchio. Sculptures, Paintings and Drawings. Complete Edition. Translated from the German MS by Katherine Watson. London, 1969: no. 4.
Seymour, Charles. The Sculpture of Verrocchio. Greenwich, CT, 1971: 127-128, no. 34, fig. 176.
Covi, Dario. "Review of G. Passavant, Verrocchio, translated by Katherine Watson, 1969." Art Bulletin 54, no. 1 (March 1972): 131.
Pope-Hennessy, John. "The Forging of Italian Renaissance Sculpture." Apollo 99 (April 1974): 258.
Middeldorf, Ulrich. Sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools XIV-XIX Century. London, 1976: 79.
Schuyler, Jane. Florentine Busts: Sculpted Portraiture in the Fifteenth Century. New York, 1976: 302, fig. 80.
Langedijk, Karla. The Portraits of the Medici: 15th-18th Centuries. 3 vols. Florence, 1981-1987: 1(1981):27-30; 2(1983):1140, 1158-1162, no. 28, repro.
Alsop, Joseph. The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared. Bollingen series 35, no. 27. New York, 1982: fig. 77.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 631, no. 984, repro.
Elam, Caroline. "Art and Diplomacy in Renaissance Florence: Delivered to the Society on Wednesday 25 May 1988, with Professor Nicolai Rubenstein, FBA, in the Chair." RSA Journal 136, n. 5387 (October 1988): 817, fig. 4.
Bartlett, Kenneth R. The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance: A Sourcebook. Lexington, MA and Toronto, 1992: 257, repro.
Darr, Alan Phipps. “Verrocchio’s Legacy: Observations Regarding His Influence on Pietro Torrigiani and Other Florentine Sculptors.” In Verrocchio and Late Quattrocento Italian Sculpture. Steven Bule, Alan Phipps Darr, and Fiorella Superbi Gioffredi. eds. (Acts of two conferences commemorating the fifth centenary of Verrocchio’s death. I. April 1988 at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; II. June 1989 at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno and the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, Florence). Florence, 1992: 125-139, esp. 137.
Fiero, Gloria K. The Humanistic Tradition, vol. 3: On the Threshold of Modernity: The Renaissance and the Reformation. Dubuque, 1992: 25, fig. 16.1.
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 291, repro.
Rolfi, Gianfranco, Ludovica Sebregondi, and Paolo Viti, eds. La chiesa e la città a Firenze nel XV secolo. Milan, 1992: 32, repro.
Stapleford, Richard. The Age of Lorenzo de' Medici: Patronage and the Arts in Renaissance Florence. A Walking Tour of Italian Painting and Sculpture in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1992: 5.
Ferrazza, Roberta. Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi. Florence, 1993: 133 fig. 135, 134, 143 n. 194.
The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. "Medici," repro. Boston, 1993.
Toscani, Bernard, ed. Lorenzo de' Medici: New Perspectives. Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, April 30- May 2, 1992. New York, 1993: not paginated, repro.
Vasari, Giorgio. Giorgio Vasari Lives of the Artists: A SelectionTranslated by George Bull. Translated by George Bull. London, 1993: 39, repro.
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 232, repro.
Feldman, Edmund Burke. The Artist: A Social History. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, 1995: 89, repro.
Walker, Paul Robert. The Italian Renaissance. New York, 1995: 30-32, repro.
Butters, Suzanne B. The Triumph of Vulcan: Sculptors' Tools, Porphyry, and the Prince in Ducal Florence. Villa I Tatti / The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies 14. 2 vols. Florence, 1996: I:310, II:385.
Grieder, Terence. Artist and Audience. New York, 1996: 388, fig. 12.1.
Kobrin, David. Beyond the Textbook: Teaching History Using Documents and Primary Sources. Boston, 1996: 41, fig. 3-3.
Warren, Jeremy. "A portrait bust of Lorenzo de' Medici in Oxford." The Sculpture Journal 2 (1998): 1-12.
Mazzotta Prum, Deborah. Rats, Bulls, and Flying Machines: A History of the Renaissance and Reformation. Charlottesville, VA, 1999: 16, repro.
Luchs, Alison. "Lorenzo from Life?: Renaissance Portrait Busts of Lorenzo de' Medici." The Sculpture Journal 4 (2000): 6-23, figs. 2, 6, 21, and 22.
National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000: 59, 61, repro.
Vogel, Carol. "Another Trip for 'David'." The New York Times (July 18, 2003).
Covi, Dario. Andrea del Verrocchio, Life and Work. Florence, 2005: 133-134, fig. 119.
DeAngelis, Adrienne. "On the Ashmolean bust of Lorenzo de' Medici." The Sculpture Journal 13 (2005): 5-17.
Warren, Jeremy. "Forgery in Risorgimento Florence: Bastianini's 'Giovanni delle Bande Nere' in the Wallace Collection." The Burlington Magazine 147 (November 2005): 737, fig. 19.
Budd, Denise M. "Leonardo, Medici Ephemera, and the Art of the Pazzi Conspiracy." In Watching Art: Writings in Honor of James Beck. Todi, 2006: 104.
Dietsch, Deborah K. "Lorenzo's new clothes: Colors awakened from centuries of grit, grime." The Washington Times (Saturday, August 12, 2006): B1, B3, repro.
"New Look for a Renaissance Icon." Sculpture Magazine 25, n. 10 (December 2006): 12.
Vogel, Carol. "Lorenzo the Magnificent, Restored to Power." The New York Times (Friday, July 28, 2006).
Belman, Michael, Alison Luchs and Shelley Sturman. “A Renaissance of Color: The Conservation of Lorenzo the Magnificent.” Facture : conservation, science, art history 1 (2013): 32-57.
Kohl, Jeanette. “Casting Renaissance Florence: the bust of Giovanni de’ Medici and indexical portraiture.” In Carvings, Casts & Collectors: The Art of Renaissance Sculpture. Peta Motture, Emma Jones and Dimitrios Zikos, eds. London, 2013: 58-71, esp. 62-63, 70, repro 63.
McHam, Sarah Blake. Pliny and the Artistic Culture of the Italian Renaissance:The Legacy of the Natural History. New Haven and London, 2013: 118-119, repro.
Technical Summary