By Maggie Bell
Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai was born on 20 October 1475 in Florence. Giovanni was the son of Bernardo, the famous humanist, and grandson of Giovanni di Paolo, patron of the Palazzo Rucellai and the facade of Santa Maria Novella. Giovanni’s mother was Nannina, sister of Lorenzo il Magnifico.
Giovanni received a classical education, traveling to Venice and Provence before returning home to Florence. He benefited from his Medici lineage, and was appointed ambassador to Francis I of France by his cousin Pope Leo X. Towards the end of his life his illegitimate cousin Pope Clement VII appointed Giovanni as the governor of Castel S. Angelo in Rome.
Throughout his political career, Giovanni maintained an interest in humanist pursuits, producing works of literature and poetry. His close collaborator was Giangiorgio Trissino, a humanist in the papal court whom Giovanni emulated in his own writing. Despite a tendency towards imitation, his poem Le api, (The Bees) published in 1539 by Giangiorgio, is a novel reimagining of the fourth book of Virgil’s Georgics in hendecasyllable that is based on close observation of nature, particularly of the beehives at the Rucellai’s Villa Quaracchi.
The opening verse to Le api:
Mazzoni, Guido. “RUCELLAI, Giovanni.” Treccani Online. http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/giovanni-rucellai_%28Enciclopedia-Italiana%29/
Portrait of Giovanni di Bernardo Rucellai with Castel S. Angelo, engraved by Giacomo Malosso from a painting owned by the Rucellai family, 19th century.