Cosimo de Medici (1389–1464), also known as Cosimo the Elder, was the heir of a family of bankers from Florence, who had only risen to wealth a couple of generations earlier. His grandfather, Vieri di Cambio de Medici, had created a banker’s company which, by 1380, had branches in Rome, Genoa, Bruges and Venice. In the hands of Cosimo, this business acquired an even stronger European position, and he would soon lend money to the Pope and to the kings of France and England.
This wealth allowed him to become the real ruler of Florence, as well as a lavish patron of art and literature. Among the artists he supported were Brunelleschi, Fra Filippo Lippi, Gozzoli, and Donatello. By founding a new Platonic Academy in Florence, he played a major part in the influence neoplatonism was to exert on Italian Renaissance, particularly through the works of Marsilio Ficino.
The wood engraving shown here was most likely made after a marble bas-relief portrait attributed to Verrocchio and now kept at the Bode-Museum in Berlin.
The caption reads in the original French: