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In 1434, Cosimo de’ Medici returned to Florence from exile. His control of Europe’s largest banking enterprise and a vast patronage network enabled him to take
control of the city. For the next 60 years, his family would remain Florence’s de facto rulers. Cosimo, his son Piero, and grandson Lorenzo used artistic commissions to bolster the Medici’s prestige and authority.

The Medici paid for lavish and innovative architecture, sculpture, and painting – for private spaces such as their family palace; for churches and monasteries including the Dominican convent of San Marco and the Medici family’s parish church of San Lorenzo; and for civic buildings like the Palazzo della Signoria.

Medici support promoted the careers of a number of pioneering Florentine artists, including Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Verrocchio, the Pollaiuolo brothers and Botticelli. In very different ways, they were inspired by classical antiquity, perspective, and the work of contemporary Northern European painters and sculptors to make art
that looked real and of their own world.

Not everything went the Medici family’s way, however. Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano was so coveted by Lorenzo de’ Medici that he appropriated it. Following Lorenzo’s death in 1492, his heirs were forced to return the painting to its legal owners, the Bartolini Salimbeni family.