In our world, private support of the arts is almost taken for granted. In fact it is the norm. Although we have the federal government dabbling at supporting the arts with its National Endowment for the Arts, it is steeped in controversy and often thought of as little more than "welfare for the artsy-craftsy". And, as we've discussed before, support for the arts amongst religious institutions is very much the exception to the rule.

In the 1400's though, things were almost completely reversed. For all intents and purposes, there was NO private sponsorship of art and artists beyond the occassional portrait and perhaps a little "interior decorating" of private palazzos. One family changed all that though. In Florence, Italy, about this time, there arose a wealthy banking/merchant family called the de' Medicis. Through a combination of political know-how and financial clout, they were the defacto rulers of the Florentine city-state.

The fountainhead of all this support was Cosimo de' Medici, who was instrumental in the rediscovery of Platonic philosophy, bringing the very best scholars from all over the Mediterranean to Florence, and sparking a renewal of interst in the humanities and art. Upon his death in 1464, is son, Piero, despite difficult times for the family, continued his father's generous patronage toward the arts. However it was HIS son, Lorenzo, often known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, under whom the arts, (painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature) flourished as never before. Without this enlightened family's elightened patronage, stretching down through three generations, we might not know today names like Donatelo, Botticelli, Leonardo, and Michelangelo, all of whom were shepherded to greatness under the uplifting wings of the de' Medici.