Giuliano de Medici Duke of Nemours (1479-1516) was the first titled Medici in history. Receiving the title of Duke from the King of France, he turned his family of merchants and bankers into a noble family, with the same dignity than the other ruling families in Italy. Despite this, Giuliano de Medici Duke of Nemours never ruled his own town, Florence. Overshadowed by his brothers and then by his nephew, he always had a secondary role in the Medici affairs. His sepulcher is the most admired and famous of the Medici tombs, entirely made by the father and master of all the arts: Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Giuliano de Medici Duke of Nemours
We don’t have many news on the youth of Giuliano de Medici Duke of Nemours, although there is a portrait painted in 1485 by Domenico del Ghirlandaio as part of the great cycle of frescoes in the Florentine church of Santa Trinita. Last of the sons of Lorenzo the Magnificent, despite being loved by his father, Giuliano was overshadowed by the presence of older brothers Piero, destined to succeed his father, and Giovanni, the future Pope Leo X. Having lost his mother Clarice Orsini at a young age (in 1488), he was educated in Florence together with his brothers. He was then in Pisa with Giovanni, who followed his university studies, between late 1489 and 1491, and in Rome, in March 1492, when Giovanni was appointed Cardinal.
When his father died in April 1492, Giuliano found himself living a politically difficult phase, ineffectively managed by his brothers. While Piero took the party leadership and the lordship of Florence, Giuliano, still a teenager, cultivated literary and courtiers interests, staying away from power. Already in those years he began to think about a possible marriage, in order to consolidate the alliance of the Medici with other Italian families. In the course of 1493 the bishop of Arezzo started negotiations for a marriage with Lucrezia Borgia but the project was dropped.
In September 1494 the arrival in Italy of King Charles VIII of France with his army led to the collapse of the Italian political system. While Piero was trying to safeguard the Medici rule, Giuliano and Giovanni traveled to Rome, however, they had to return immediately, just in time to witness the uprising against the Medici, which forced them to escape and exile. Since then, the life of Giuliano was made constant shifts between the Italian courts, from which the Medici were trying to get the help needed to return to Florence by force.
At the turn of the century, to the evident impossibility of return in a short time in Florence, the three brothers chose different paths. Cardinal Giovanni, after a trip to Europe, settled in Rome in May 1500; Piero placed himself at the service of France; Giuliano, between the summer of 1499 and 1501, is divided between the court of Louis XII King of France and Venice. In the spring of 1501 he entered the service of Cesare Borgia, who had embraced the idea of restoring the Medici in Florence. Disappointed in his expectations from Borgia, who gave up the enterprise behind a generous compensation by the Florentines, Giuliano retired for some time in Genoa where the sister Maddalena lived. At the end of 1502 intervened in the siege of Imola together with Cesare Borgia, and then settled at the Duke of Urbino, Guidobaldo I da Montefeltro.
The death of Piero de ‘Medici, in December 1503, marked the end of the hopes of restoring the Medici and was a serious blow to the family; Giuliano by that time lived mainly in Urbino at the Duke Guidobaldo (died in 1508) and then with his successor, Francesco Maria Della Rovere, cultivating the literary and social pleasures of a fine court.
In Urbino, Giuliano had also, in 1511 (or 1510), a natural son, Ippolito, later Cardinal, by a widow, Pacifica Brandano, in which some considered to identify – without foundation – the female figure portrayed in the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. This was one of the many and fleeting love affairs that characterized the life of Giuliano de Medici Duke of Nemours, which, especially in the years of exile, appears poised between a refined indolence, sometimes tinged with mystical impulses, and an exaggerated sensuality.
The exile from Florence ended in 1512. In that year, the French defeat created the conditions for the Medici restoration. At the end of August 1512, Giuliano and Cardinal Giovanni conquered Prato with a Spanish army. The taking of Prato and the subsequent looting by Spanish troops led the Florentines to remove their support for the republic and Pier Soderini and Giuliano entered the city in triumph with his brother.
With the election of Giovanni as Pope Leo X, the position of ruler of Florence was given to Lorenzo, son of Piero and nephew of the Pope. While lacking a truly independent political role, Giuliano represented a key figure in the international strategy of Leo X, which aimed at creating a Medici state in northern and central Italy. Arrangements were made for a marriage between Giuliano and Filiberta di Savoia, relative of the King of France, who gave his consent to the wedding and gave Giuliano the title of Duke of Nemours. The wedding was a great opportunity for social success but did not produce the desired political effects. No Medici state was formed, the Pope was soon an enemy of France again, and on top of this, Giuliano de Medici Duke of Nemours got sick. He died in Florence March 17, 1516, mourned by artists and writers, including Ludovico Ariosto who addressed to Filiberta a touching comforting song. In 1520, Leo X commissioned Michelangelo the tomb of Giuliano, which was built in the New Sacristy of San Lorenzo between 1526 and 1534.