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Bernardo Rucellai

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Title: Bernardo Rucellai  
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Subject: The Art of War (Machiavelli), Italian War of 1494–98, Giovanni Rucellai, Nannina de' Medici, Loggia Rucellai, Lucrezia Tornabuoni
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Bernardo Rucellai

Bernardo Rucellai
Engraved portrait of Bernardo Rucellai from L' Etruria Dotta, ossia raccolta d'elogj di toscani illustri nelle belle lettere e nelle scienze, Deca VI by Francesco Allegrini, Lucca 1786
Born 1449
Died 1514
Other names Bernardo di Giovanni Rucellai, Bernardus Oricellarius

Bernardo Rucellai, also known as Bernardo di Giovanni Rucellai or as Latin: Bernardus Oricellarius, was born in 1448 or 1449 and died on 7 October 1514. He was the son of Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai (1403–1481) and father of Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai (1475–1525). He was married to Nannina de' Medici, the elder sister of Lorenzo de' Medici, and was thus uncle to Popes Leo X and Clement VII, who were cousins. Oligarch, banker, ambassador and man of letters, he is today remembered principally for the meetings of the members of the Accademia platonica in the Orti Oricellari, the gardens of his house in Florence, the Palazzo Rucellai, where Niccolò Machiavelli gave readings of his Discorsi.[1]


The son of Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai, he was a member of the political elite of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Florence.

In 1466, Bernardo married Nannina de' Medici, the elder sister of Lorenzo de' Medici to whom Bernardo was very close and strongly supported. He and Nannina had four children: Cosimo, Pietro, Palla and Giovanni.

Political career

In 1478, he served as one of the Officiales Studii under the period of Lorenzo de' Medici's "rule" of Florence.

In 1484, he served as ambassador to Genoa.

From 1497-8, he served as Gonfaloniere di Giustizia under the period of the Savonarolan republic.

Other ambassadorial appointments include Naples and France.

Intellectual Accomplishments

After the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, he opened his gardens, the Orti Oricellari, to the Academia Platonica in order that they might continue their discussions about literature, classical heritage, rhetoric and Latin grammar. Other famous Florentines in attendance include Niccolò Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini.

Rucellai was a student of epigraphy, mainly of the city of Rome, and conducted extensive correspondence about historiographic theory with Pontano after his ambassadorial charge at Naples.

His teacher was the famed neo-Platonist Marsilio Ficino. His son Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai was his pupil.


Bernardo Rucellai wrote mainly in Latin. Although there is considerable correspondence between himself and Lorenzo de'Medici, Marsilio Ficino and Pontano, he wrote five treatises which have yet to be translated (into any other language):

De urbe Roma liber, De magistratibus Romanis, De bello italico commentarius, De bello Pisano, De bello Mediolansi and Oratio de auxilio Tifernatibus adferendo. All but the last are histories.


Further reading

  • Cosenza, Mario Emilio. Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Italian Humanists and of the World of Classical Scholarship in Italy, 1300-1800. Vol. 5. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1962.
  • Fido, Franco. Machiavelli, Guiccardini e storici minori del primo Cinquecento. Padova: Piccin Nuova Libraria, 1994.
  • Gilbert, Felix. "Bernardo Rucellai and the Orti Oricellari: A Study on the Origin of Modern Political Thought," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 12, (1949): 101-131.
  • Gilbert, Felix. Machiavelli and Guicciardini: Politics and History in Sixteenth-Century Florence. New York: Norton, 1984.
  • Pellegrini, Guglielmo. L'umanista Bernardo Rucellai e le sue opere. Livorno: Tipografia Raffaello Giusti, 1920.
  • Phillips, Mark. Francesco Guicciardini: the historian's craft. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1976.

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