Born into the already powerful Medici banking family in 1449, Lorenzo became the de facto head of Florence, ruling through influence and patronage rather than official position. The time of his leadership is considered the period of Florence's greatest height in both power and artistic achievement.
A talented poet himself and an art lover, Lorenzo patronized Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Donatello and Michelangelo, as well as many more artists and musicians. He expanded the family library begun by his grandfather Cosimo and commissioned Michelangelo to design a building to house it.
Late in life, Lorenzo came into conflict with Savonarola, who later became the leading power in Florence. The fragile peace Lorenzo crafted among the competing city-states of Italy collapsed after his death.