Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



The Italy of Popes and Princes



Between the 15th and the 18th centuries, Italy was contested by the rulers of France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. It disintegrated into interdependent political structures that quarreled with each other and maneuvered between the great powers. The popes and the northern Italian princes were united by ruthless power and family politics in their battle against municipal freedoms and fashioned their courts into shining centers of the arts and literature.


see also:






CLASSICAL MUSIC-The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Baroque Era







Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici

Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici,
copy by

Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici by Cristofano dell'Altissimo

(1360 – February 20/28, 1429) was an Italian banker, the first historically relevant member of Medici family of Florence, and the founder of the Medici bank. He was the father of Cosimo de' Medici (Pater Patriae), and great-grandfather of Lorenzo de Medici (the Magnificent).

Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici was born in Florence. He was the son of Averardo de' Medici. Though he is considered the founder of the rich Medici dynasty, he was not born into a rich family. The little money left by his father was divided between a widow and five sons, leaving Giovanni with little.

Giovanni was somewhat uninterested in politics, unless the issues pertained to him or his bank. Often when his name was put forward to participate in the Florentine government (reggimento), he chose to pay the fine rather than serve, although he did serve one term as Gonfaloniere.

Giovanni was the head of an early "multi-national" company, as the family bank, his main commercial interest, had branches throughout the northern Italian city-states and beyond. In 1410, Giovanni bet on the return of the papacy to Rome, and was correct. Rewarding Giovanni for his support, subsequent popes made use of the de' Medici banks. Giovanni was also rewarded with tax-farming contracts and the rights to many alum mines. He set his family on the path to becoming one of the richest dynasties in Europe, thereby making an essential stride towards its later cultural and political eminence.




Cosimo de’ Medici

Cosimo di Medici by Bronzino

ruler of Florence [1389-1464]
byname Cosimo the Elder, Italian Cosimo il Vecchio, Latin byname Pater Patriae (Father of his Country)
born Sept. 27, 1389, Florence
died Aug. 1, 1464, Careggi, near Florence

founder of one of the main lines of the Medici family that ruled Florence from 1434 to 1537.

The son of Giovanni di Bicci (1360–1429), Cosimo was initiated into affairs of high finance in the corridors of the Council of Constance, where he represented the Medici bank. He went on from there to manage the papacy’s finances and in 1462 filled his coffers to overflowing by obtaining from Pius II the Tolfa alum mines monopoly, alum being indispensable to Florence’s famed textile industry. He was certainly the wealthiest man of his time, not only in terms of bullion but also in the amount of bank and promissory notes payable to his bank in Florence and to its branches operating in all the important financial markets of Europe. Such great power alone would have been sufficient to set the oligarchy against him; his “popular” policies rendered him completely intolerable. The Albizzi, one of the other leading families, attempted a coup. In 1431 Cosimo was vacationing in Cafaggiolo when he received a summons to reply to his indictment for the capital crime “of having sought to elevate himself higher than others.” He could have taken refuge in Bologna, but instead he chose to let himself be incarcerated in a small dungeon in the Palazzo Vecchio. The Albizzi soon discovered that so wealthy a man could not be assassinated so easily. The jailer was bribed to taste Cosimo’s food beforehand, and the gonfalonier, assuaged by the famous gold-bearing mules, arranged to have the usual death sentence reduced to banishment. Cosimo retired to Padua and Venice, where he was received like a sovereign. Exactly one year later, a sudden and unexpected move by the Medici, in which they doctored elections, gave them back the signoria (council of government). Cosimo triumphantly reentered the city; and his enemies went into exile, never to return. The Medici principate had begun (1434).

Cosimo traditionally has been accused of destroying Florentine liberties; but these ancient liberties, more of an illusion than a reality, had already ceased to exist in the Florence of the Albizzi. Cosimo only had to perpetuate the formula of those he was evicting, in other words, to maintain the appearance of a constitutional regime. But, in order not to be taken by surprise like the Albizzi, he perfected the system. He made no changes in the law’s actual administration, but in the spirit of the law he changed everything. Previously, it was the rule to fill high official positions by drawing lots. The process was now manipulated so that only the names of men who could be depended upon were drawn. The independent mood of the two municipal assemblies was neutralized by making an exceptional procedure the rule: dictatorial powers were now granted for a fixed term that was always renewed. He also made an alliance with the Sforzas of Milan, who, for gold, provided him with troops. This alliance permitted Cosimo to crush the rising opposition by a coup d’état in August 1458 and to create a Senate composed of 100 loyal supporters (the Cento, or Hundred); thus he was able to live out the last six years of his life in security.

Cosimo required undivided power in order to carry out his plans as well as to satisfy his passions, above all his passion for building. Brunelleschi completed the “marble hat” of his famous cupola at the time of Cosimo’s return in 1434; in addition, he almost completed the work on S. Lorenzo and on the Sagresta Vecchia and began work on the strange rotunda of Sta. Maria degli Angeli. He drew up plans for a princely palace for Cosimo; but the latter preferred the less lofty plans of Michelozzo, although Michelozzo’s Medici Palace (the modern Palazzo Medici-Riccardi) was only slightly less grandiose and provided the first break with the family’s traditional stance of humility. Under the patronage of Cosimo, Michelozzo also built the convent of S. Marco, the Medici Chapel at Sta. Croce, and a chapel at S. Miniato. In addition to architects, Cosimo gathered around him all the masters of an age abounding in geniuses: the sculptors Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello and the painters Andrea del Castagno, Fra Angelico, and Benozzo Gozzoli. He not only assured these artists of commissions but also treated them as friends at a time when people still looked upon them as manual workers.

Cosimo also organized a methodical search for ancient manuscripts, both within Christendom and even, with Sultan Mehmed II’s permission, in the East. The manuscripts picked up by his agents form the core of the incomparable library that is rather unjustly called the Laurentian (Laurenziana), after his grandson. He opened it to the public and employed copyists in order to disseminate scholarly editions compiled by, among others, the Humanists Poggio and Marsilio Ficino.

In short, he was well prepared for the singular opportunity that came his way in 1439, when he succeeded in enticing the ecumenical council from Ferrara to Florence. The Council of Florence, Cosimo’s most important success in foreign relations, deluded itself into believing it had finally ended the schism with the Eastern Church. As for Cosimo, he assiduously attended the lectures delivered by the Greek scholars, and at the age of 50 he became an ardent admirer of Plato. He then re-created Plato’s ancient academy in his villa of Careggi, where Marsilio Ficino became the Platonic cult’s high priest. At the same time the University of Florence, with conspicuous success, resumed the teaching of Greek, which had been unknown in the West for 700 years. Thus Cosimo was one of the mainsprings of Humanism.

In 1440 Cosimo prematurely lost his brother, who had been his staunchest supporter. In 1463 he had to face the loss of his most gifted son, Giovanni, thus leaving the succession to Piero, born in 1416, who was sickly and almost constantly bedridden. The future seemed dark to the old man as he roamed through his palace, sighing, “Too big a house for such a small family.” He died in Careggi in 1464, and a huge crowd accompanied his body to the tomb in S. Lorenzo. The following year, the signoria conferred upon him the deserved title of Pater Patriae (Father of His Country).

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici

Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici by Bronzino

Piero di Cosimo

Italian ruler
byname Piero The Gouty, Italian Piero Il Gottoso

born 1416
died Dec. 2, 1469

ruler of Florence for five years (1464–69), whose successes in war helped preserve the enormous prestige bequeathed by his father, Cosimo the Elder.

Afflicted by gout (a hereditary ailment of the Medici), Piero was so badly crippled that he was often able to use only his tongue. In 1466 he detected a plot to overthrow his rule, and, showing more courage than he was supposed to possess, he had himself borne on a litter to Florence, where he defeated his enemies. On Venice’s launching a new war against Florence, he made an alliance with Milan and Naples, defeated the condottiere Bartolomeo Colleoni at Imola, and, under the peace of 1468, acquired Sarzana and Sarzanello.

Piero’s wife, Lucrezia Tornabuoni, was highly intelligent; and his sons, Lorenzo (the Magnificent) and Giuliano (1453–78), received an exceptional literary and artistic education. Piero himself acted as patron of the Platonic Academy and provided work for such great artists as Donatello, Andrea del Verrocchio, and Sandro Botticelli.

Encyclopaedia Britannica



Lorenzo de’ Medici

Lorenzo de Medici by Andrea del Verrocchio

The Confirmation of the Rule by Domenico Ghirlandaio ;
Lorenzo de' Medici stands in the center,
flanked by Antonio Pucci and Francesco Sassetti with his youngest son.

Lorenzo by Girolamo Macchietti

 Lorenzo de Medici, painting by Vasari

Italian statesman
byname Lorenzo The Magnificent, Italian Lorenzo Il Magnifico

born Jan 1, 1449, Florence
died April 9, 1492, Careggi, near Florence

Florentine statesman, ruler, and patron of arts and letters, the most brilliant of the Medici. He ruled Florence with his younger brother, Giuliano (1453–78), from 1469 to 1478 and, after the latter’s assassination, was sole ruler from 1478 to 1492.

Upon the death of his father, Piero de’ Medici, and his own accession to power Lorenzo immediately let it be known that he intended to follow his father’s and grandfather’s example and “use constitutional methods as much as possible.” In saying this, he was, however, keeping up appearances. In 1471 the popular assemblies lost their financial powers. According to the historian Francesco Guicciardini’s apt definition, Lorenzo’s regime was “that of a benevolent tyrant in a constitutional republic.” It was, moreover, a tyranny tempered by the festivals that Florentines always loved passionately: carnivals, balls, tournaments, weddings, and princely receptions.

The Pazzi Conspiracy in 1478 thus came as a rude shock to a carefree city. The Pazzi bank, in the course of a treacherous war in which the adversaries did not scruple to use the most devious methods, had taken the business affairs of the papacy away from the Medici. Sixtus IV, his nephew Riario, and Francesco Salviati, the archbishop of Pisa, supported the Pazzi and in the end formed a conspiracy with them. They decided to assassinate Lorenzo and Giuliano in the cathedral during Easter mass on April 26, while the Archbishop was to take over the signoria (the council of government). Giuliano was indeed killed in front of the altar, but Lorenzo succeeded in taking refuge in a sacristy. The Archbishop clumsily accosted the Medici gonfalonier, a harsh and suspicious man who immediately had him hanged from a window of the Palazzo Vecchio wearing his episcopal robes. The crowd stood by the Medici, seized the conspirators, and tore them limb from limb. Sixtus IV, forgetting the murder in the cathedral—in which two priests had taken part—refused to consider anything else than the hanging of a prelate and threatened Florence with interdiction unless it handed over Lorenzo to him. The city and its clergy rejected the proposal. The situation was all the more critical because Ferdinand I, king of Naples, was supporting the papacy. Florence’s ruler could count on nothing more than very limited aid from Milan and the encouragement of the King of France. Lorenzo thereupon went, alone, to Naples. In his situation it required unusual audacity to present himself before one of the cruelest rulers of the century. But Lorenzo’s boldness was crowned with success. Ferdinand, disconcerted, perhaps intimidated, yielded and concluded a peace; and Sixtus IV, now isolated, could only comply with it.

Lorenzo emerged from the conflict with greatly increased prestige. From then on he was considered the Wise, “the needle on the Italian scales.” He did not take advantage of his position by imitating the Sforza and making himself a duke. He contented himself with creating a Council of Seventy that he hoped would be even more manageable than the old Cento (Hundred). This amazed Europe, for he had all the attributes of a true sovereign. His new villa, at Poggio a Caiano, had all the majesty of a royal residence.

Thus, step by step, the Medici were approaching the status that they continued to refuse. Lorenzo married an Orsini, of the high Roman nobility. His daughter Maddalena was married to a son of Pope Innocent VIII (born before his father’s entry into religious orders), and his eldest son, Piero, married another Orsini. When his son Giovanni was 13, Lorenzo obtained a cardinal’s hat for him from Innocent VIII. To be sure, Lorenzo remained a simple citizen, and yet he was called “the Magnificent.” In Italy during this period, this was a title of commonplace obsequiousness used in addressing the great; but it was Lorenzo who raised it to its current high stature.

There was, however, one difference between Lorenzo and titled kings, who are able to live in pomp and ceremony even when their treasury is empty. Lorenzo could not do so, and the stream of florins that fed his munificence was becoming less abundant. This was partially his own fault for, with the Medici, the aptitude for business diminished as the thirst for power increased. In addition, economic conditions were deteriorating. New competitors were appearing in Europe, and the branches in London, Bruges, and Lyon became insolvent. But the recurrent accusation that the Medici bank was kept solvent at the expense of the public treasury is not borne out by the facts. The movement of funds between the Medici bank and the treasury of the signoria was the equivalent of that occurring between private and public banks in modern states. The family’s patronage of artists, architects, and writers also imposed a considerable burden upon its resources. He himself contributed more than anyone to the flowering of Florentine genius during the second half of the 15th century. He continued collecting ancient texts, and in his villas in Careggi, Fiesole, and Poggio a Caiano he assembled what is called the Platonic Academy but was more like a circle of good friends: his teacher Marsilio Ficino, the Humanist Pico della Mirandola, and the man who was always closest to his heart, Politian (Angelo Poliziano), the poet, who had saved his life on the day of the Pazzi Conspiracy. Lorenzo’s reputation did not rest on lavish hospitality alone. He was also respected as a poet of great talent. His preference for the Tuscan dialect over Latin was remarkable for this time. Equally rare was his custom of treating artists with “the affectionate and warm-hearted familiarity that allows a protégé to stand erect at the side of his protector, as man to man.” The artists under his protection included Giuliano da Sangallo, Botticelli, Verrocchio, and Verrocchio’s pupil Leonardo da Vinci. Toward the end of his life, Lorenzo opened a school of sculpture in his garden of San Marco. There a 15-year-old pupil attracted his attention and was brought up in the palace like a son of the family; it was Michelangelo.

On the recommendation of Pico della Mirandola, Lorenzo permitted the Dominican monk Girolama Savonarola to preach at San Marco in 1490. He mounted the pulpit on August 1 and launched an unceasing deluge of denunciations of the Medici, the papacy, and the whole of Christianity. The Florentines, who had grown weary of festivities, listened to his appeals for asceticism and to his terrifying prophecies, among which was the imminent death of the “tyrant.” But it was easy for him to be thus prophetic, for Lorenzo’s health had been declining for three years, and the secret had not been well kept. From his deathbed he sent for Savonarola, who, according to a doubtful tradition, called upon him to “give Florence back her freedom” and, in the face of the dying man’s silence, refused to grant him absolution. Lorenzo’s obsequies were simple, as he had requested; but the presence of the entire population of Florence, sincerely moved by his premature death—he was 43—took on the character of a plebiscite. He was buried in S. Lorenzo, where the grandiose tomb that his son Giovanni, who later became Pope Leo X, had planned was never executed. His tombstone passes almost unnoticed at the side of the monuments erected by Michelangelo to Giuliano, one of his sons, and to his grandson Lorenzo, both very insignificant persons.

Lorenzo the Magnificent died at the very moment when a new historical era was beginning. Six months later Christopher Columbus was to reach the new world. And two years later the foolish Italian expedition of the French king Charles VIII was to plunge the peninsula into a half century of suffering.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Lucrezia de' Medici

Lucrezia de' Medici, grandmother of Cosimo I de' Medici
or her grandmother Lucrezia de'Medici Tornabouni

Lucrezia de' Medici (in the centre)
with Ippolita Maria Sforza (on the left side)

(4 August 1470 - between 10 and November 15 1553) was the eldest daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici and Clarice Orsini and mother of Maria Salviati and Giovanni Salviati, who was a cardinal from 1517 until his death. Her portrait was considered (as a newborn) as the baby Jesus in Our Lady of the Magnificat of Sandro Botticelli.

Life, Marriage and issue
She married on the 10 September 1489 to Jacopo Salviati.

By Salviati, she had 10 children, some of who were of great importance for the history of Renaissance Europe:

Cardinal Giovanni Salviati (Florence, 1490 - Ravenna, 1553)
Lorenzo Salviati (Florence, 1492 - Ferrara, 1539), senator and patron
Piero Salviati, patrician
Elena Salviati (Florence, 1495 circa - Genoa, 1552), married the Marquis Pallavicino Pallavicino and second marriage to the Prince Iacopo V Appiani in Appiano
Baptist Salviati (1498 - 1524)
Maria Salviati (1499 - 1543), married to Giovanni dalle Bande Nere. This marriage united the main branch and Popolano branch of the Medici family. His son, Cosimo, was named to lead Florence after the death of Duke Alessandro de' Medici
Luisa Salviati, married Sigismund de Luna and Peralta
Francesca Salviati, married first to Piero Gualterotti and second, in 1533, to Ottaviano de' Medici and was the mother of Pope Leo XI
Bernardo Salviati (Florence, 1505/1508 - Rome, 1568) knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem; served Catherine de' Medici in France; 1561 Cardinal
Alamanno (1510 - 1571), patrician

Later Life
Jacopo died in 1533, Lucrezia outlived him by twenty years.

Lucrezia was a proud great grandmother to ten great grandchildren, through her daughter Maria, who would look after all of them. However, Lucrezia never really got to see them and tragically Maria died in 1543, aged 44. Lucrezia was very upset by the loss of her daughter and she herself died 10 years later. Lucrezia's exact death date is unknown but it is known that she died between 10th and 15 November 1553.

Her age at the time of her death was 83 years old, which was very old for women in the 16th century and she had outlived three great grandchildren.

Through her daughter Maria, Lucrezia is an ancestor of the Medici family as well as its descendants, an ancestor of the Kings of France and also the Kings of England. Her grandson was Cosimo I de' Medici, who became Grand Duke of Tuscany, his son was Francesco I de' Medici who succeeded his father in 1574. Francesco had two daughters, both who married into important families and changed the course of history.

Francesco's daughters were Eleonora de' Medici and Marie de' Medici. Eleonora married Vincenzo I Gonzaga, their son was Francesco IV Gonzaga and through Eleonora, Lucrezia is an ancestor of the Dukes of Mantua and also of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Through Marie, Lucrezia is ancestor of Kings of France, through Marie's marriage to Henri IV of France. Marie's grandson was Louis XIV of France. Louis's grandson, Philip, Duke of Anjou, became king of Spain and is a direct ancestor of Juan Carlos, current king of Spain.

Marie also had a daughter called Henrietta Maria who married Charles I of England. Henrietta Maria and Charles were the parents of Charles II of England and James II of England. James was the father of Mary II of England, Anne of Great Britain and James Francis Edward Stuart-'the Old pretender'. Charles, on the other hand, is an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, Sarah, Duchess of York. The 'Old Pretender' had two sons, Henry Benedict Stuart and Bonnie Prince Charlie-'the Young Pretender'. Henry Benedict was a cardinal, hence died childless, while the 'Young Pretender' had an illegitimate daughter, Charlotte, Duchess of Albany. The claimant, through Charlotte, to this branch of the House of Stuart is Peter Pininski.

Henrietta Maria also had a daughter, Henrietta 'Minette' Anne Stuart, who married Philippe I, Duke of Orleans and had issue. Her descent ultimately culminated in Franz, Duke of Bavaria, who is the current Heir General of the House of Stuart and embodies the still continuing Jacobite claim to the thrones of England, Scotland, Ireland and France




Maria Salviati

Maria Salviati portrait by Pontormo, c. 1543. Florence, Uffizi Gallery.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maria Salviati (July 17, 1499 - December 29, 1543) was an Italian noblewoman, the daughter of Lucrezia di Lorenzo de' Medici and Jacopo Salviati. She married Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and was the mother of Cosimo I de Medici. Her husband died November 30, 1526, leaving her a widow at the age of 27. Salviati never remarried; after her husband's death she adopted the somber garb of a novice, which is how she is remembered today as numerous late portraits show her attired in black and white.

Maria Salviati was born in Florence. She descended from two of Florence's most powerful banking families: the Salviati on her father's side, and the Medici on her mother's. Salviati's maternal grandfather was Lorenzo "il Magnifico", a well known politician and grandson to Cosimo de' Medici the Elder.

In turn, Salviati's descendants became crowned figureheads of Europe over the succeeding generations. Her son, Cosimo I de' Medici, was crowned Duke when his cousin Alessandro was assassinated in 1537. Her grandson Francesco I de' Medici married Johanna of Austria; they were the parents of Eleonora de' Medici, who married Vincenzo I Gonzaga and was the mother of Francesco IV Gonzaga. Francesco and Johanna's other daughter was Marie de' Medici, who married Henry IV of France and was the mother of Louis XIII of France and Henrietta Maria of France. Louis was the father of Louis XIV of France, Henrietta Maria was the mother of Charles II of England and James II of England.

Bia de' Medici
Maria set up residence at Villa di Castello in northern Florence, there she would look after her grandchildren. Her son Cosimo had an illegitimate daughter called Bia de' Medici. Maria described her granddaughter as a very happy and chatty little girl, often having long conversations with her.

Cosimo married in 1539 to Eleonora di Toledo. Gossip reports that Eleonora refused to tolerate Bia's presence in the palace after their marriage so Cosimo sent Bia off to live with Maria. Other sources say that Eleonora brought Bia up very lovingly. Bia shared a nursery with Giulia de' Medici an illegitimate daughter of Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, the pair were close in age so they got along very well with each other. Maria knew who Bia's mother was but she would never tell Bia or anyone else the name of the women. Both Bia and her cousin Giulia contracted a fast-moving fever, Giulia recovered from the illness but Bia didn't, Cosimo would often write to Maria asking her of Bia's condition. Bia became sicker and sicker and eventually died on March 1, 1542 aged only five years. Maria and Cosimo were said to be very sad by her loss, Maria carried on looking after Giulia.

Maria died one year after Bia on December 29, 1543. This was an awful loss for Cosimo, two very loving females had been taken from him in the space of two years.




Leo X

Portrait of Pope Leo X and his cousins,
cardinals Giulio de' Medici and Luigi de' Rossi,

originally Giovanni de’ Medici
born December 11, 1475, Florence [Italy]
died December 1, 1521, Rome

one of the leading Renaissance popes (reigned 1513–21). He made Rome a cultural centre and a political power, but he depleted the papal treasury, and, by failing to take the developing Reformation seriously, he contributed to the dissolution of the Western church. Leo excommunicated Martin Luther in 1521.

Early life and ecclesiastical career
Leo X was born Giovanni de’ Medici, the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, ruler of the Florentine republic, and by custom was thus destined for a religious life. At the early age of eight de’ Medici received the tonsure—a ceremony involving the cutting of hair from the head, thus indicating the change of status from lay to clerical—and five years later he became the cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria in Dominica. At the court of his father, he received the finest education available in Europe; one of his several tutors was the philosopher Pico della Mirandola. From 1489 to 1491 de’ Medici studied theology and canon law at the University of Pisa. In 1492 he became a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals and attempted to take up residence in Rome. The death of his father later in the same year, however, brought him back to Florence, where he lived with his older brother, Piero.

The election of Pope Alexander VI took de’ Medici back to Rome for the conclave (assembly of cardinals to elect the pope); otherwise he lived in Florence until he was exiled in November 1494 with the other members of the Medici family on the charge of betraying the republic. For the next six years Cardinal de’ Medici traveled throughout northern Europe. In 1500 he returned to Italy and settled in Rome. Upon the death of his brother Piero, he became the head of the Medici family. In 1503 he took part in the conclaves that elected first Pope Pius III (in September) and then Pope Julius II (in October). Named papal legate to Bologna and Romagna in 1511, he supervised the reestablishment of Medici control of Florence the following year; although his younger brother Giuliano actually held the first place in the Florentine republic, it was the cardinal who ruled.

Election to the papacy
After the death of Julius II on February 21, 1513, the Sacred College of Cardinals was summoned to elect a successor. The conclave met on March 4, and, with minimal deliberation, the cardinals, who desired a peace-loving successor to the warlike Julius, elected Cardinal de’ Medici on March 11. Taking the title of Leo X, the pontiff-elect was ordained a priest on March 15 and consecrated bishop of Rome on the 17th. Two days later the papal coronation took place.

The new pope was the personification of Renaissance ideals. Having spent his youth at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, he had acquired the mannerisms and tastes of one of the most brilliant societies of Europe and posed a sharp contrast to the soldier-pope whom he succeeded. He fit extremely well into the atmosphere of calm and quiet of which Rome was desirous after 10 years under Julius II. Leo was lavish in his spending not only of the church’s money but also of his own. Under his patronage Rome again became the cultural centre of Europe. The construction of St. Peter’s Basilica—initiated under Julius II—was accelerated, the holdings of the Vatican Library were greatly increased, and the arts flourished. Even the piety of the papacy was restored to some extent after the low reputation it had reached under the Borgia popes (Calixtus III and Alexander VI).

The fifth Lateran Council occupied the new pope during the first five years of his pontificate. Called by Julius II two years before his death, the council was designed to nullify the efforts of nine rebellious cardinals who had called for a council to meet at Pisa in order to revive the conciliar movement, which promoted the idea that a general church council had greater authority than the pope and could depose him. Although “Pisa II” collapsed when first the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I and then the French king Louis XII withdrew their support, the Lateran Council opened in 1512. Leo X, who inherited the council before it was a year old, was little inclined to preside over the sweeping reforms that the church so desperately needed on the eve of the Protestant Reformation. Poorly attended and dominated by Italian bishops, the council debated the principal issues of the day; but there was neither direction nor encouragement from the pontiff, nor the urgency and necessity that would spur on the Council of Trent some 40 years later. The Lateran Council was dissolved on March 16, 1517, without significant action, just before Martin Luther’s circulation of his Ninety-five Theses. (See Researcher’s Note.)

Struggle for political power
Leo X was not only the head of the Christian church but also the temporal ruler of the Papal States and head of the Medici family that ruled the Florentine republic. To exert his influence in Italy, he resorted to the common practice of nepotism (granting offices or benefits to relatives, regardless of merit). He appointed his cousin Giulio de’ Medici (the future pope Clement VII) to the influential archbishopric of Florence. He also named his younger brother Giuliano and his nephew Lorenzo to be Roman patricians. Giuliano’s premature death in 1516 brought an end to the pope’s plan to create a central Italian kingdom for him. On July 1, 1517, following, and as a result of, an attempt upon his life earlier in the year, Leo named 31 new cardinals in order to secure the support of the College of Cardinals. One cardinal, Alfonso Petrucci, was strangled in prison, and several others were imprisoned and executed when they were implicated in the attempted assassination.

In his struggle to dominate Italy, Leo X was confronted by the awesome power of Spain and the determination of the French kings. Louis XII of France marched into Italy in 1513 to make good his claims to Milan and Naples. Reluctantly Leo formed the League of Mechlin, in which Spain provided the major military strength. The French were defeated at Novara, and Louis renounced his claims and withdrew his army. The peace was short-lived. The ascent of Francis I in 1515 to the throne of France led to the renewal of the war. Although Leo again formed the coalition of Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and England, Francis won the Battle of Marignano (September 14, 1515). The pope made peace with the French king and then followed it up with the Concordat of Bologna. Promulgated in the form of a papal bull (Primitiva) on August 18, 1516, the concordat regulated church-state relations in France for the next 275 years. The French kings were given the power to nominate bishops, abbots, and priors, though the popes did retain the right to nominate candidates to fill vacant benefices in curia and certain other benefices. Though the pope always had the power to veto the king’s nominations, in practice the lay monarch’s choice was tantamount to an appointment. This control over the church in France on the part of the kings explains, in part, why the monarchy showed little interest in Protestantism during the 16th century.

The death of the Holy Roman emperor, Maximilian I, in 1519 brought Leo further into the political arena. The Habsburg candidate, Charles I of Spain, had succeeded his maternal grandparents Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1516 and now sought to follow his paternal grandfather, Maximilian, to the powerful German throne. Both Francis I and Frederick the Wise of Saxony, however, immediately put forward their candidacy. Leo—fearing that if the empire were joined to either France or Spain, Italy would come under the power of the victor—threw his support in favour of Frederick. The election of Charles I of Spain as Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire led to war between France and Spain, and, although Leo would have preferred to remain neutral, he cast his lot with the new emperor when Francis again invaded Italy.

Conflict with Luther
The ever-pressing financial undertakings of the papacy kept Leo X in constant need of new means of raising revenue. The wars with France, his lavish support of the arts, the construction of St. Peter’s, and a projected Crusade against the Turks all contributed to the financial needs of the papacy. One important source of revenue had long been the dispensing of indulgences (remission of the temporal penalty for sins) for money. During the reign of Julius II, indulgences had been authorized for financial contributions for the construction of St. Peter’s. Leo, who was very much interested in continuing this work, reaffirmed the indulgence shortly after his ascent. Nevertheless, because of its unpopularity in northern Europe, based primarily on economic reasons, it was not until early in 1517 that Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, actually began to preach the indulgence in the archdioceses of Mainz and Magdeburg (Germany). In response to this preaching, Martin Luther circulated his Ninety-five Theses.

By the following year (1518) Luther’s ideas had reached Rome, and Leo ordered the head of the Augustinian order, of which Luther was a member, to silence him. When this failed, the pope tried to work through Frederick of Saxony, but again to no avail. On June 15, 1520, Leo issued Exsurge Domini, a papal bull that charged Luther with 41 instances of deviation from the teaching and practice of the church and ordered him to recant within 60 days or suffer excommunication. Luther, who by this time had gained the support of influential figures in Germany, defied the pope. Thus, Leo was left no alternative but to issue a papal bull (Decet Romanum Pontificem) of excommunication on January 3, 1521.

Leo X had not viewed the Lutheran movement with the seriousness that history later indicated was warranted. He could recall that the church, after all, had withstood the teachings of an English Reformer, John Wycliffe, and a Bohemian Reformer, Jan Hus. Leo believed Luther was another heretic whose teachings would lead some of the faithful astray but, as had happened in the past, the true religion would triumph in time. In December 1521 Leo X died suddenly, leaving behind him political turmoil in Italy and religious turmoil spreading across northern Europe.

John G. Gallaher

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Alessandro de’ Medici

Jacopo Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, by Pontormo

Jacopo Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence

born 1510/11, Florence [Italy]
died Jan. 5–6, 1537, Florence

the first duke of Florence (1532–37).

Alessandro was an illegitimate child, whose paternity is ascribed either to Lorenzo de’ Medici (1492–1519), Duke di Urbino, or, with more likelihood, to Cardinal Giulio, nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Cardinal Giulio received the lordship of Florence in 1519; but, upon being elected pope in 1523 (Clement VII), he made Silvio, Cardinal Passerini, regent in Florence for Alessandro and another bastard heir, Ippolito de’ Medici. Alessandro had meanwhile been created Duke di Penna by the Holy Roman emperor Charles V (1522).

Republican sentiments and Savonarolan ideas were still strong in Florence, and Cardinal Passerini’s regency was unpopular. When imperial forces sacked Rome (May 1527), revolution broke out in Florence, and Passerini and the bastards fled. The Piagnoni family then came to power in Florence and restored the old regime of the republic. The indignation of the pope counted for little so long as he was at variance with Charles V; but in June 1529 pope and emperor came to terms. Charles agreed to restore the Medici in Florence and sent an army against the city, which capitulated after a siege of 11 months (October 1529–August 1530). Reprisals were taken against the opponents of the Medici; and Alessandro, whom Charles had nominated head of state for Florence in October 1530, returned in June 1531. Ippolito had been created cardinal (January 1529).

The new Florentine constitution of April 1532 declared Alessandro to be hereditary duke and perpetual gonfalonier of the republic. Though his common sense and his feeling for justice won his subjects’ affection, Alessandro was rough and uncultured, a lover of sensual pleasures who enriched himself personally through taxes and duties and was determined to make his authority absolute beyond all question. After Clement VII’s death (1534) the exiled opposition sought to oust the duke from Florence and persuaded Cardinal Ippolito to submit its case to Charles V. Ippolito, however, died suddenly at Itri (August 10, 1535), on his way from Rome to Tunis, where Charles then was; and Charles, returning from Tunis, received Alessandro at Naples and decided to uphold him. Married in 1536 to the emperor’s natural daughter Margaret, the duke now felt altogether secure; but in the night of January 5–6, 1537, his distant cousin Lorenzino, or Lorenzaccio, de’ Medici (1514–48), the companion and procurer of his licentious amusements, took advantage of his confidence in order to murder him. Disappointed at the Florentines’ failure to rise against tyrannical government, Lorenzino fled and was himself murdered in 1548.




Catherine de Médicis

Caterina de’ Medici, attributed to Francois Clouet

Catherine de' Medici, wife of Henry II. of France c. 1555

Catherine de' Medici, by Francois Clouet

Double grave monument of Henry II and Catherine de Medicis in the Abbey of St. Denis near Paris

queen of France
Italian Caterina de’ Medici

born April 13, 1519, Florence
died January 5, 1589, Blois, Fr.

queen consort of Henry II of France (reigned 1547–59) and subsequently regent of France (1560–74), who was one of the most influential personalities of the Catholic–Huguenot wars. Three of her sons were kings of France: Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III.

Early life.
Catherine was the daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici, duke of Urbino, and Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne, a Bourbon princess related to many of the French nobility. Orphaned within days, Catherine was highly educated, trained, and disciplined by nuns in Florence and Rome and married in 1533 by her uncle, Pope Clement VII, to Henry, duc d’Orléans, who inherited the French crown from his father, Francis I, in April 1547. Artistic, energetic, and extraverted, as well as discreet, courageous, and gay, Catherine was greatly esteemed at the dazzling court of Francis I, from which she derived both her political attitudes and her passion for building. Of the chateaus she designed herself—including the Tuileries—Chenonceaux was her unfinished masterpiece.

In spite of Henry’s abiding attachment to his mistress Diane de Poitiers, Catherine’s marriage was not unsuccessful and, after 10 anxious years, she bore him 10 children, of whom 4 boys and 3 girls survived. She herself supervised their education. Thus occupied, Catherine lived privately though she was appointed regent in 1552 during Henry’s absence at the siege of Metz. Her ability and eloquence were acclaimed after the Spanish victory of Saint-Quentin in Picardy in 1557, possibly the origin of her perpetual fear of Spain, which remained, through changing circumstances, the touchstone of her judgments. It is essential to understand this in order to discern the coherence of her career.

Political crises.
Catherine’s first great political crisis came in July 1559 upon the accidental death of Henry II, a traumatic bereavement from which it is doubtful that she ever recovered. Under her son, Francis II, power was retained by the Guise brothers. Thus began her lifelong struggle—explicit in her correspondence—with these extremists who, supported by Spain and the papacy, sought to dominate the crown and extinguish its independence in the commingled interests of European Catholicism and personal aggrandizement. It is also necessary to understand this political struggle of the Catholic crown with its own ultramontane extremists and to perceive its fluctuations in changing circumstances, in order to realize the fundamental consistency of Catherine’s career. Her essentially moderate influence was first perceptible during the Conspiracy of Amboise (March 1560), an instance of tumultuous petitioning by the Huguenot gentry, primarily against Guisard persecution in the name of the King. Her merciful Edict of Amboise (March 1560) was followed in May by that of Romorantin, which distinguished heresy from sedition, thereby detaching faith from allegiance.

Catherine’s second great political crisis came with the premature death on Dec. 5, 1560, of Francis II, whose royal authority the Guises had monopolized. Catherine succeeded in obtaining the regency for Charles IX, with Antoine de Bourbon, king of Navarre and first prince of the blood, as lieutenant general, to whom the Protestants vainly looked for leadership.

Civil wars.
The 10 years from 1560 to 1570 were, politically, the most important of Catherine’s life. They witnessed the first three civil wars and her desperate struggle against the Catholic extremists for the independence of the crown, the maintenance of peace, and the enforcement of limited toleration. In 1561, with the support of the distinguished chancellor Michel de L’Hospital, she began by trying to propitiate the leaders of both religious factions, to effect reforms and economies by unassailably traditional methods, and to settle the religious conflict. Religious reconciliation was the conveners’ purpose of the Colloquy of Poissy (September–November 1561). Catherine appointed a mixed commission of moderates that devised two formulas of consummate ambiguity, by which they hoped to resolve the basic, Eucharist controversy. Possibly Catherine’s most concrete achievement was the Edict of January 1562, which followed the failure of reconciliation. This afforded the Calvinists licensed coexistence with specific safeguards. Unlike the proposals of Poissy, the edict was law, which the Protestants accepted and the Catholics rejected. This rejection was one basic element in the outbreak of civil war in 1562, in which—as she had predicted—Catherine fell, politically, into the clutches of the extremists, because the Catholic crown might protect its Protestant subjects in law but could not defend them in arms. Thenceforth the problem of religion was one of power, public order, and administration.

Catherine ended the first civil war in March 1563 by the Edict of Amboise, an attenuated version of the Edict of January. In August 1563 she declared the King of age in the Parlement of Rouen and, from April 1564 to January 1566, conducted him on a marathon itinerary round France. Its principal purpose was to execute the edict and, through a meeting at Bayonne in June 1565, to seek to strengthen peaceful relations between the crown and Spain and to negotiate for Charles’s marriage to Elizabeth of Austria. During the period 1564–68, Catherine was unable, for complex reasons, to withstand the cardinal Lorraine, statesman of the Guises, who largely provoked the second and third civil wars. She quickly terminated the second (September 1567–March 1568) with the Peace of Longjumeau, a renewal of Amboise. But she was unable to avert its revocation (August 1568), which heralded the third civil war. She was not primarily responsible for the more far-reaching Treaty of Saint-Germain (August 1570), but she succeeded in disgracing the Guises.

For the next two years Catherine’s policy was one of peace and general reconciliation. This she envisaged in terms of the marriage of her daughter Marguerite to the young Protestant leader, Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France), and alliance with England through the marriage of her son Henry, duc d’Anjou, or, failing him, his younger brother François, duc d’Alençon, to Queen Elizabeth. The complexity of Catherine’s position during these years cannot be briefly explained. To some extent she was eclipsed by Louis of Nassau and a group of Flemish exiles and youthful Protestants who surrounded the King and urged him to make war upon Spain in the Netherlands, which Catherine inevitably resisted.

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day
The issue of war or peace in the Netherlands was closely linked with the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day in Paris on Aug. 23–24, 1572. Upon this occasion, following an abortive attempt against the life of the admiral Gaspard de Coligny, he and a number of his principal lieutenants, together with several thousand Huguenots, were killed. Catherine traditionally has been blamed for these events, which have therefore fashioned the interpretation not only of her subsequent, but frequently also of her previous, career, resulting in the familiar myth of the wicked Italian queen. There are two principal reasons for this. First, after some hesitation and inconsistency, the King assumed the responsibility by a declaration of August 26 in the Parlement of Paris, and “the crown” has been taken to mean Catherine. The second reason for the traditional inculpation of Catherine is the work of the pamphleteers and the polemical nature of the historiography of the event. It is impossible to establish the origin of the assault upon Coligny, but, as a member of the court—the royal family and the council—Catherine was among those who appear to have authorized not the massacre itself but the death of the admiral and his principal followers. This and the subsequent royal declaration of August 26 are both explained by the danger of the situation—after the unsuccessful assault upon Coligny—in which the infuriated Huguenots allegedly threatened the court with extinction and the kingdom with war.

Last years.
After the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, Catherine was more concerned with the election of Anjou to the throne of Poland (May 1573) than the prosecution of the fourth civil war. Upon the death of Charles IX a year later, she assumed the regency with the support of the Parlement until the return from Poland of Henry III in August. Catherine placed high hopes in her favourite, Henry, for the regeneration of France, for which she longed, but not without simultaneous misgivings, knowing his weakness of character and his previous subjection to the Catholics. For these reasons Catherine neither sought to dominate Henry nor to rule in his place but rather suffered him to exploit her and strove with unremitting pains to supply his deficiencies. Until the death of Alençon in 1584, much of her attention was devoted to restraining his dangerous ambitions, which again threatened to involve France in hostilities with Spain. After the Treaty of Joinville (December 1584) between the Guises and Spain, at Henry’s bidding, Catherine, though gravely ill, returned to this dual threat. But after three months of continuous effort, in order to avert a public breach between the crown and the Guises, she was obliged, by the Treaty of Nemours (July 1585), to commit the King to making war against the Huguenots. Having failed with the Guises, the crown turned to Navarre, the Protestant leader who, as heir presumptive, had an interest in the preservation of the throne. In July 1586 Catherine undertook the arduous journey to see him at Saint-Brice near Cognac. But there was nothing to which Navarre could safely commit himself. Thus, despite the heroic efforts of Catherine’s old age, France was sinking into chaos when she died at Blois eight months before the murder of Henry III. Nevertheless, her ultimate achievement was to have saved the kingdom just long enough to ensure the succession of the Bourbon Henry IV, by whom the royal authority was restored.

N.M. Sutherland

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Pius IV

Pope Pius IV

original name Giovanni Angelo de’ Medici

born March 31, 1499, Milan [Italy]
died Dec. 9, 1565, Rome, Papal States [Italy]

Italian pope (1559–65) who reconvened and concluded the Council of Trent.

A canon lawyer, in 1545 he was ordained and consecrated archbishop of Ragusa and in 1547 was appointed papal vice legate for Bologna. He was made cardinal priest in 1549.

After a long conclave Giovanni was elected pope on Dec. 25, 1559, as Pius IV. Though he had long agreed with those who saw a need for definite reforms, particularly of nepotism, in the Curia, he called his own nephew Charles Borromeo, to Rome, where he created him cardinal deacon in 1560. Pius nevertheless took prompt action to bring Cardinal Carlo Carafa, his brother, Giovanni, and Pope Paul IV’s nephews to trial, which resulted in their controversial execution on March 6, 1561. He concurrently collaborated with Borromeo in composing crucial letters appealing to Europe’s Roman Catholic princes to resume the Council of Trent, which had been suspended since 1552.

Despite the peace between France and Spain, many obstacles stood in the way of the council. The Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand I, still hoping for the return of the Lutherans to the Roman church, sympathized with doctrinal concessions in their favour; King Philip II of Spain, on the contrary, opposed any change and was cool toward reopening the council, and the Roman Curia was totally opposed to any doctrinal change, though willing to discuss the reform of abuses. Pius was prepared to concede communion in both kinds and perhaps also clerical marriage. He especially hoped to prevent France from following Germany into apostasy.

Pius’ bull of convocation was issued on Nov. 29, 1560; the opening session took place on Jan. 18, 1562. A year was spent in overcoming major differences, and the outcome was an almost unmitigated triumph for the papacy. With Borromeo as his chief adviser, Pius’ conciliatory attitude calmed imperial opposition. The effective reforms of the council gradually restored the pastoral efficiency of the Roman Catholic church and represented the middle-of-the-road conservative Catholics. The council was dissolved on Dec. 4, 1563, and Pius confirmed its decrees and definitions in his bull Benedictus Deus (Jan. 26, 1564); on the following November 3, he published a summary of doctrine generally known as the Professio Fidei Tridentina (“Tridentine Profession of the Faith”), imposing it on the bishops as obligatory.

Several important works that the council recommended or initiated but could not effectually carry out were given to Pius for completion; among these were drafting the Index of Forbidden Books and reforming the catechism, missal, and breviary. In 1564 he made Borromeo cardinal priest, designating him chief reformer of the Curia and head of the Consulta, thus making him secretary of state. Under the direction of Borromeo, the catechism was completed some months after Pius’ death. Pius also encouraged St. Teresa of Ávila’s celebrated Carmelite reform and reduced the powers of the Inquisition. Having revived the Roman university, he launched an energetic building program, patronizing Michelangelo.

Pius did not long outlive the conclusion of the legal enactment of the Counter-Reformation, and his desire for a continued endeavour to reconvert the German Protestants died with him. During his last days the stiff taxation needed for his reform caused a conspiracy against him.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Cosimo I

Cosimo I

Eleonora of Toledo with her son Giovanni de' Medici

Camilla Martelli (c.1545 - 30 May 1634)
was the first lover and then second wife of the
Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici.

duke of Florence and Tuscany [1519-74]
in full Cosimo de’ Medici, byname Cosimo the Great, Italian Cosimo il Grande

born June 12, 1519
died April 21, 1574, Castello, near Florence [Italy]

second duke of Florence (1537–74) and first grand duke of Tuscany (1569–74).

Cosimo was the great-great-grandson of Lorenzo the Elder, the son of Giovanni di Bicci and brother of Cosimo the Elder, and was thus a member of a branch of the Medici family that had taken an active part in Medici affairs but had played no political role. Nevertheless, when he heard of the assassination of his distant cousin, Alessandro, duke of Florence, he immediately made for Florence. There, in January 1537, Cosimo was elected head of the republic, in the government of which he was to be assisted by the senate, the assembly, and the council. This election was approved by the Holy Roman emperor, Charles V, and on August 2 the emperor’s general Alessandro Vitelli, at Montemurlo, defeated an army that a band of exiles had raised against Cosimo. Cosimo then had the principal captives beheaded and began, with Charles V’s approval (September 1537), to style himself duke. The Florentine senate, assembly, and council were soon powerless.

Cosimo married Eleonora de Toledo in 1539. As the emperor’s protégé, he was able to withstand the hostility of Pope Paul III and Francis I of France. He was shrewd and unscrupulous, and, with Florence under his control, he turned his ambition to territorial aggrandizement. His plans for annexing Lucca and Piombino in the 1540s were frustrated, but his enterprise against the republic of Siena, which sheltered exiles from Florence and pursued a pro-French policy, was successful. Cosimo launched an attack on Siena in 1554; a French army under Piero Strozzi was defeated at Scannagallo, near Marciano; and in 1555, after a long siege, the city capitulated. Philip II of Spain, as the successor of Charles V in Italy, had to agree to enfeoff Cosimo with the lordship of Siena in July 1557. The accession of Pius IV to the papacy in 1559 strengthened Cosimo still further, since Pius was a Medici of Milan and was well disposed toward the Florentine Medici. He gave a cardinal’s hat to Cosimo’s son Giovanni in 1560 and, after Giovanni’s death, one to another son, Ferdinand, in 1563.

Having brought nearly all Tuscany under his control, Cosimo used his despotic power to promote the country’s well-being. His passion for efficiency inspired him with the idea, extremely advanced for the times, of uniting all public services into a single building, the Uffizi (“Offices”), which was built for him according to Giorgio Vasari’s grandiose yet practical design. In order to satisfy his taste or, better said, his Medici passion for buildings, he made Vasari his superintendent of buildings and had him redecorate the interior of the Palazzo Vecchio. He then adopted as his residence the Pitti Palace, which Eleonora had purchased unfinished in 1549. Here he entrusted the extensive work of enlargement to the architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. In 1564 Cosimo and Vasari boldly built the gallery that permits convenient passage from one palace to the other by utilizing the Ponte Vecchio. Behind the Pitti Palace, the vast expanses of the hill of Boboli enabled Cosimo to indulge still another of his hereditary passions in designing, with Tribolo’s help, the plan of the famous gardens.

Yet in his patronage of the arts, Cosimo was increasingly frustrated, for the great period of the officina, the workshop of Florentine masterpieces, was drawing to its close. Michelangelo could no longer be induced to stay on. In 1534 he departed for Rome, leaving the Sagrestia Nuova tombs and the Laurentian Library unfinished. But Cosimo had the artist’s body brought back in 1564 and buried it himself with great pomp at Santa Croce. On the other hand, he was able to retain Jacopo Pontormo and Bronzino, the official court portraitists, and Ammannati, who was also an engineer and who had rebuilt the bridge of Santa Trinità after the disastrous flood of 1557. Cosimo, an archaeologist by temperament, was a true forerunner in this field. He opened up excavations on Etruscan sites from which such world-renowned pieces of ancient statuary as the “Orator” and the “Chimera” were taken. Finally, he established the Florentine Academy, which engaged in serious linguistic studies.

Cosimo was deeply afflicted when his wife, two of his daughters, and two of his sons all died within six years (1557–62); his enemies exploited these misfortunes to spread calumnies against the dynasty. On March 1, 1564, he resigned the actual government of his dominions to his eldest son, Francis, though he retained his ducal title and certain prerogatives; and in December 1565 Francis was married to the Austrian archduchess Joanna (Joan), a diplomatic achievement celebrated with great festivity.

Finally on Aug. 27, 1569, Pope Pius V conferred the title of grand duke (granduca) of Tuscany on Cosimo. This title, however, was not recognized by the Habsburg powers or by the other Italian duchies. To gratify Pius, Cosimo in 1570 married Camilla Martelli, who had long been his mistress.

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Bia de' Medici

Portrait of Bia Medici, Daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bia de' Medici, the illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, died at about age six. After her death, her father commissioned a posthumous painting by Bronzino.Bianca de' Medici, called Bia (ca. 1536 – March 1, 1542) was the illegitimate daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, born before his first marriage.

After her death of a fever at about the age of six, her father commissioned a painting of her by Agnolo Bronzino that is one of his most famous works. The posthumous painting of Bia has inspired works of art by modern artists such as American sculptor Joseph Cornell.

The identity of Bia's mother is not known, but Cosimo I was likely no older than sixteen when he fathered her. According to Edgcumbe Staley's The Tragedies of the Medici, some stories said the girl's mother was a village girl from Trebbio, where the Medicis had built one of their first villas, while others said she was a gentlewoman from Florence. Only Cosimo I and the girl's paternal grandmother, Maria Salviati, knew the identity of the girl's mother, but Salviati refused to reveal it, though she did acknowledge Bia was the daughter of Cosimo.

Staley wrote that the little girl was called La Bia, short for Bambina (little girl or baby). The name might also have been short for Bianca. Staley wrote that her father's new wife, Eleonora di Toledo, refused to tolerate her presence in the palace after their marriage, so Cosimo sent her off to the Villa di Castello, her paternal grandmother's chief residence north of Florence. However other, more reliable, reports indicate that her stepmother "brought her up very lovingly." Her paternal grandmother supervised the nurseries for all of the children of Cosimo I. All of them, not only Cosimo's illegitimate daughter, spent most of their time at the Villa di Castello and were raised by nurses, with minimal day-to-day contact with their parents, though both Cosimo and Eleonora heard reports of their progress and offered directions for their education, their living arrangements, and the clothing they wore. Bia shared her nursery with Giulia de' Medici, the illegitimate daughter of Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, who was close to her in age. She grew into a high-spirited, loving little girl who kept her grandmother and nurses entertained with her antics. Bia's father adored his first-born child, and her paternal grandmother, Maria Salviati, said the little girl "was the comfort of our court, being so very affectionate."

Both Bia and her cousin Giulia contracted a fast-moving fever in February 1542, from which Giulia recovered but Bia did not. Cosimo I received almost daily reports of Bia's worsening condition from his mother, Maria Salviati. The child grew weaker between February 25 and February 28 and finally died on March 1, 1542. She was buried in the Medici family crypt in San Lorenzo.

When her legitimate half-sister Isabella de' Medici was born six months after her death, her father rejoiced to have another daughter. Contemporaries who might normally have consoled him on his wife's failure to present him with a second son instead congratulated him on her birth, knowing how he had grieved for the loss of Bia. "(I) congratulate you on the beautiful baby girl God has conceded to you in recompense for the one he has taken to join him in paradise," wrote Paolo Giovio after the birth of Isabella. A comparison of portraits of Bia and Isabella reveal that, had she lived past early childhood, Bia likely would have closely resembled her half-sister Isabella, who shared her reddish-blonde hair, brown eyes, and dainty features.

Bronzino painting
After her death, her father commissioned a posthumous painting of her by Agnolo Bronzino, which art historians regard as one of his finest works. The work is 63 cm by 48 cm and was painted in tempera on wood. In the famous painting, which is on display in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Bia wears a medallion with her father's profile on it, emphasizing her bond with her father. Her complexion is a pale white because Bronzino painted the portrait using her death mask as a model. It was not an official state portrait, but would have hung in the family's private rooms as a reminder to them of the dead child and an inspiration and guide on the path to salvation. As art historian Gabrielle Langdon argues, Bronzino painted the child with a halo effect, in "light-emitting white satin and pearls" as a metaphor for both her name "Bianca," which means "white" and her childish innocence. "Like (Petrarch's) 'Laura,' the posthumous Bia is a riveting emanation from Heaven who bestows purifying grace on the beholder," Langdon wrote in the 2004 collection The Cultural World of Eleanora Di Toledo.

The painting has continued to inspire modern artists. American sculptor Joseph Cornell's 1948 sculpture Medici Princess incorporates Bronzino's portrait of Bia. The sculpture, one of a series depicting members of the Medici family, shows an enameled reproduction of Bronzino's portrait of Bia in a dark wooden box, behind a blurred, deep blue glass pane. On either side of the main portrait are smaller vignette reproductions of the same portrait, behind glass as well. Below Bia's image, in a pull-out drawer, are a feather and a floor plan of the palace in Florence that was once her home. The sculpture, which is owned by a private collector, was on display during a recent retrospective of Cornell's work originating with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.




Marie De Médicis

Portrait of Marie de Medici as a young girl

Marie de Medici, Queen of France by Peter Paul Rubens

Coronation of Marie de Medici by Peter Paul
Rubens, (detail)

queen of France
Italian Maria De’ Medici

born April 26, 1573, Florence [Italy]
died July 3, 1642, Cologne [Germany]

queen consort of King Henry IV of France (reigned 1589–1610) and, from 1610 to 1614, regent for her son, King Louis XIII (reigned 1610–43).

Marie was the daughter of Francesco de’ Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, and Joanna of Austria. Shortly after Henry IV divorced his wife, Margaret, he married Marie (October 1600) in order to obtain a large dowry that would help him pay his debts. In 1601 Marie gave birth to the dauphin Louis (the future Louis XIII), and during the following eight years she bore the king five more children. Nevertheless, their relationship was strained. Marie resented Henry’s endless infidelities, and the king despised her unscrupulous Florentine favourites, Concino Concini and his wife Leonora. Upon the assassination of Henry IV (May 14, 1610) the Parlement of Paris proclaimed Marie regent for young King Louis XIII.

Guided by Concino (now the Marquis d’Ancre), Marie reversed Henry’s anti-Spanish policy. She squandered the state’s revenues and made humiliating concessions to the rebellious nobles. Although Louis XIII came of age to rule in September 1614, Marie and Ancre ignored him and continued to govern in his name. On April 24, 1617, Louis’s favourite, Charles d’Albert de Luynes, had Ancre assassinated. Marie was then exiled to Blois, but in February 1619 she escaped and raised a revolt. Her principal adviser, the future Cardinal de Richelieu, negotiated the peace by which she was allowed to set up her court at Angers. Richelieu again won favourable terms for her after the defeat of her second rebellion (August 1620). Readmitted to the king’s council in 1622, Marie obtained a cardinal’s hat for Richelieu, and in August 1624 she persuaded Louis to make him chief minister. Richelieu, however, did not intend to be dominated by Marie. He enraged her by rejecting the Franco-Spanish alliance and allying France with Protestant powers. By 1628 Marie was the cardinal’s worst enemy. In the crisis known as the Day of the Dupes (Nov. 10, 1630), she demanded that Louis dismiss the minister. Louis stood by Richelieu and in February 1631 banished Marie to Compiègne. She fled to Brussels in the Spanish Netherlands in July 1631 and never returned to France. Eleven years later she died destitute.

Marie de Médicis built the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, and in 1622–24 the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens decorated its galleries with 21 paintings, portraying the events of her life, that rank among his finest work.

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Eleonora de' Medici

Eleonora de' Medici

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eleonora de' Medici (February 28, 1567 – September 9, 1611) was the eldest child of Francesco I de' Medici and Johanna of Austria. She was a member of the famous Medici.

In 1578, when Eleonora was eleven her mother died, and her father later married Bianca Cappello. Medici was one of seven children. One of her sisters Marie de' Medici became queen of France and was the mother of Louis XIII of France, Marie made her sister Eleonora the godmother of Louis. Eleonora and Marie also had another sister called Anna who died at the age of 14, the rest of Eleonora and Marie's siblings died during childhood also.

Medici married Vincenzo I Gonzaga on April 29, 1584, for her husband it was his second marriage after he divorced Margerita Farnese. Three of her sons would become Dukes of Mantua and Montferrat and her daughter Eleonore would become a Holy Roman Empress. Her children were:

Francesco IV Gonzaga (May 7, 1586 – December 22, 1612), Duke of Mantua and Duke of Montferrat between February 9 and December 22, 1612.
Ferdinando I Gonzaga (April 26, 1587 – October 29, 1626), Duke of Mantua and Duke of Montferrat from 1612 until his death.
Guglielmo Dominico (1589 – 1591), died during childhood
Margerita Gonzaga (2 October 1591 – 7 February 1632) , wife of Henry II, Duke of Lorraine
Vincenzo II Gonzaga (January 7, 1594 – December 25, 1627), Duke of Mantua and Marquess of Montferrat from 1626 until his death.
Eleonore Gonzaga (September 23, 1598 – June 27, 1655), wife of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor.
Her two daughters were possible second wives to Philip III of Spain, after the death of his wife Margaret of Austria. In 1608 she arranged the marriage of her eldest son Francesco to Margaret of Savoy, this marriage produced three children, only the eldest daughter Maria reached adulthood, Maria was the mother of Eleanor Gonzaga who became Holy Roman Empress by her marriage to Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, they were the parents of four children, among them were Eleonora Maria Josefa of Austria and Maria Anna Josepha, Archduchess of Austria.

Eleonora died on September 9, 1611 in Cavriana, Italy, when she was 44. Her husband outlived her by only one year, dying in 1612, their son Francesco succeeded them, however Francesco was hardly Duke of Mantua for a year before his death also in 1612. Francesco was succeeded by his brothers, Eleonora's father died without a surviving male child so his brother Ferdinando succeeded him as Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Eleonora's mother was a descendant of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Isabella is a descendant of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. John is the son of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. Edward's mother was Isabella of France, who is a descendant of the French King and Edward's father was Edward II of England, who was a descendent of English kings.




Ferdinand I

Ferdinando De’ Medici

grand duke of Tuscany
original name Ferdinando De’ Medici

born July 30, 1549
died Feb. 7, 1609

third grand duke (granduca) of Tuscany (1587–1609), who greatly increased the strength and prosperity of the country.

The younger son of Cosimo I, Ferdinand had been made a cardinal at age 14 and was living in Rome when his brother Francis (Francesco) died without a male heir, and he inherited the grand ducal title (1587). He did not renounce his cardinalate until 1589, when he married Christine of Lorraine, daughter of Charles III of Lorraine, and a granddaughter of Catherine de Médicis through her mother, Claude de France. This marriage, moreover, symbolized his policy of rapprochement with France in order to counteract Spanish influence in Italy, where Tuscany’s independence and prosperity was assured by his skill at playing one great power off against another. For all his ecclesiastical background, he was a far more capable exponent of Cosimo’s policy than Francis had been.

Secret loans from Ferdinand helped Henry of Navarre, even before his conversion to Roman Catholicism, in his war to make himself king of France as Henry IV; and the occupation of the Château d’If by Tuscan forces (1591) obstructed Spanish designs on Marseille during the same war. There was some dispute between Ferdinand and Henry before Ferdinand withdrew his garrison from the Château d’If (1598), but their friendship was sealed by Henry’s marriage, in 1600, to Ferdinand’s niece Maria (Marie de Médicis). To preserve good relations with the Austrian Habsburgs, on the other hand, Ferdinand’s son Cosimo was married in 1608 to the archduchess Maria Magdalena, a first cousin of the emperor Rudolf II; and Tuscan forces helped the Austrians in their war against the Turks. The Knights of St. Stephen won notable victories over the Turks in the Ionian and Aegean seas (1605–09) and on the African coast (Bône, 1607).

Ferdinand’s wise administration, an increase of commercial activity, and the continuance of his predecessors’ plans for draining the marshes and for developing Livorno and its port (where political exiles from abroad were encouraged to settle) raised the grand duchy to a new zenith of prosperity. In Rome, as a cardinal before becoming grand duke, Ferdinand had distinguished himself as a lover of the arts and as the builder of Villa Medici; and in Tuscany under his rule Giovanni da Bologna and Buontalenti remained active among artists and architects. Ferdinand also patronized Giulio Caccini, Jacopo Corsi, and other musicians of the Camerata de’ Bardi, whose work marked the birth of opera in Florence.

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Cosimo II

Cosimo II de' Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany

grand duke of Tuscany
in full Cosimo de’ Medici

born May 12, 1590
died Feb. 28, 1621

fourth grand duke of Tuscany (1609–20), who closed down the Medici family’s practice of banking and commerce, which it had pursued for four centuries.

Cosimo II succeeded his father, Ferdinand I, in 1609; and, guided by his mother, Christine of Lorraine, and by Belisario Vinta, he followed his father’s example and sought to establish a balance between France and Spain. He used his influence to promote the Franco-Spanish negotiations of 1611–12, which led to the marriages of 1615 (between Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria and between the future Philip IV of Spain and Elizabeth of France). His fleet, under the admirals Jacopo Inghirami and Giulio di Montauto, checked the Turks in the Mediterranean; and his friendly relations with the Druze emir Fakhr ad-Dīn secured commercial advantages in the Levant for Tuscans.

It was Cosimo who appointed Galileo “first professor of philosophy and mathematics” at Pisa and mathematician and philosopher of the grand duke of Tuscany in 1610, after Galileo discovered four satellites of Jupiter and named them the Sidera Medicea (“Medicean Stars”). Under Cosimo also the architect Matteo Nigetti worked on the funeral chapel of the Medici (according to designs by Cosimo I’s brilliant natural son, the younger Giovanni, who also won fame as a soldier and as a diplomat); and the sculptor Pietro Tacca began his bronzes for the monument to Ferdinand I. Cosimo abandoned all banking and commerce on his own account, for he considered it demeaning and distracting from the course of political governance.

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Ferdinand II

Ferdinand II

grand duke of Tuscany
original name Ferdinando de’ Medici

born July 14, 1610
died May 24, 1670

fifth grand duke (granduca) of Tuscany, a patron of sciences, whose rule was subservient to Rome.

He was a boy of 10 when his father, Cosimo II, died in 1621; and his grandmother, Christine of Lorraine, and his mother, Maria Magdalena of Austria, were nominated regents. The young Ferdinand was sent to Rome and Vienna to complete his education, and the government of Tuscany remained in the hands of two jealous and quarrelsome people. Thus the administration of justice and finance speedily went to ruin. They conferred exaggerated privileges on the new Tuscan nobility, which became increasingly insolent. They resumed the old Medicean practice of trading on their own account, and, without reaping much benefit thereby, did the utmost damage to private enterprise.

In 1627 Ferdinand II, then aged 17, returned to Italy and assumed the reins of government; but, being of a very gentle disposition, he decided on sharing his power with the regents and his brothers and arranged matters in such a manner that each was almost independent of the other. He gained the love of his subjects by his great goodness; and, when Florence and Tuscany were ravaged by the plague in 1630, he showed admirable courage and carried out many useful measures. But he was totally incapable of energy as a statesman. He contrived with difficulty to remain neutral, despite pressure from Spain, in the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–31) and in the later Franco-Spanish hostilities of the Thirty Years’ War. On the other hand, his relations with the papacy were unhappy. Pope Urban VIII’s annexation of Urbino to the Papal States (1626) precluded Ferdinand from acquiring anything more than the freehold property of the former dukes of Urbino when he married their heiress, Vittoria della Rovere, in 1634 (this patrimony, however, included important treasures); and though he allied himself with Venice and Modena to support his brother-in-law Odoardo Farnese, duke of Parma, against Urban during the War of Castro (1642–44) and won a victory at Mongiovino, near Perugia, in 1643, he received no advantage under the treaty of peace.

Deeply religious and austere, Ferdinand II was blamed for his acquiescence to the Holy Office’s treatment of his teacher and protégé Galileo (1633); but he continued to take an interest in science, encouraging his brother Leopoldo, the future cardinal, in the foundation of the Accademia del Cimento in Florence (1657) and offering hospitality to scientists of all nations.

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Clement VII

Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, Pope Clement VII

original name Giulio de’ Medici
born May 26, 1478, Florence [Italy]
died Sept. 25, 1534, Rome

pope from 1523 to 1534.

An illegitimate son of Giuliano de’ Medici, he was reared by his uncle Lorenzo the Magnificent. He was made archbishop of Florence and cardinal in 1513 by his cousin Pope Leo X, whose political policies he influenced. As cardinal he commissioned Raphael to paint the huge altarpiece the “Transfiguration” for his cathedral at Narbonne, France. He planned an impressive group of monuments to members of his family for the New Sacristy (Sagrestia Nuova) in San Lorenzo, Florence, and in 1520 Michelangelo began the designs, which were to rank among the finest of his sculptures. In 1523 he was elected to succeed Adrian VI. His reign was dominated by the spread of the Protestant Reformation, the conflict between France and the Empire, and the divorce of Henry VIII of England.

A weak, vacillating figure in the political struggles between King Francis I of France and the Holy Roman emperor Charles V for the domination of Europe, Clement shifted his support from one to the other while attempting to maintain control of Italy. He supported Charles in the fighting that ended in the Battle of Pavia (Feb. 24, 1525), during which Francis was taken prisoner. The following year, however, he joined Francis in founding the League of Cognac, a treaty opposing Charles. Clement’s anti-imperial policy increased Charles’s difficulties in Germany, especially his battle against the growing Reformation. Clement’s alliance with France led to the emperor’s sack of Rome in May 1527. During the attack, Clement sought refuge in the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome and then lived outside Rome for almost one year.

Clement’s incapacitation complicated the English king Henry VIII’s request for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1528 France invaded Italy, and Clement delegated Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio as co-legate with Cardinal Wolsey to try Henry’s case in England, but on May 31, 1529, Catherine denied their jurisdiction and appealed to Rome to sustain a validation of her marriage. A few weeks later, the French were defeated in Italy; Clement brought the revocation of Catherine’s cause to Rome (July 1529) and in March 1530 forbade Henry to remarry until the papal verdict was pronounced.

The Reformation in Germany worsened when Charles released Clement without attempting to secure a guarantee that ecclesiastical reform would commence or that a general council would be convened to solve the problem raised by the Lutheran movement. Francis opposed such a council, and Clement was continually prevented from action on the urgent need for reform. His indecisiveness allowed the Protestant revolt to grow, which was nurtured further by Henry’s eventual split from Rome.

Like the preceding popes Alexander VI, Julius II, and Leo X, Clement appeared to his contemporaries primarily as a Renaissance prince preoccupied with Italian politics, the patronage and enjoyment of Renaissance culture, and the advancement of his family. As were the pontiffs mentioned, Clement was financially unsystematic and extravagant. He gravely underestimated the depth and the dangers of his unpopularity in Germany, and the Reformation found the papacy psychologically unprepared for a radical and permanent rejection of its authority. Thus, by 1530, when Charles, after Clement crowned him at Bologna (the last imperial coronation by a pope), again gave his attention to Germany, it was too late. After considerable procrastination, which brought about Wolsey’s fall and the triumph of the anti-ecclesiastical party in England, Clement accelerated the breaking of the English church from Rome by finally pronouncing Henry’s marriage to Catherine valid in 1533. The Act of Supremacy followed (November 1534), making the king of England head of the English church.

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Leo XI

Pope Leo XI

original name Alessandro Ottaviano de’ Medici

born June 2, 1535, Florence [Italy]
died April 27, 1605, Rome

pope from April 1–27, 1605. Pope Gregory XIII made him bishop of Pistoia, Italy, in 1573, archbishop of Florence in 1574, and cardinal in 1583. Elected to succeed Clement VIII on April 1, 1605, he died within the month.

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Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici

Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici
portrait by Antonio Franchi

Anna Maria Luisa and her husband Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine
painting by Jan Frans van Douven

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, (August 11, 1667 – February 18, 1743, Florence), was the last of the Medici to live in the Pitti Palace. She was the daughter of Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Marguerite Louise of Orléans and the sister of Gian Gastone de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the last Medici grand duke of Tuscany. She officially married Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine (1658-1716) on June 5, 1691.

Anna Maria was born in Florence on August 11, 1667. Her parents marriage had been arranged in 1661 and her unhappy mother Marguerite Louise of Orléans returned to Paris in 1675 when Anna Maria was eight years old. Her grandmother Vittoria della Rovere raised her. Anna Maria also corresponded with her uncle, cardinal Francesco Maria de' Medici, governor of Siena.

Beginning in 1683, her father attempted to arrange her marriage several times, including to Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia, King Peter II of Portugal, King James II of England, and King Charles II of Spain. Cosimo agreed to a dowry with Johann Wilhelm on April 21 1691. Anna Maria and Johann Wilhelm married in Düsseldorf where she remained until Wilhelm's death in 1716.

Upon her return to Florence, Cosimo tried to engineer her ascent as Grand Duchess, if and when, as he came to expect, none of his sons or brothers would produce heirs. However, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was enfeebled and the last Medici were, in general, a spectacle of degeneracy. She is described as haughty and aloof, venturing out with much help to attend Mass, donate to charity, or visit the family mausoleum being completed at San Lorenzo.[citation needed]

In secret she had a lover called Giacomo IV Rise-Verdanté, the descendant of Giacomo (I) Rise-Verdanté, of the aristocratic family Rise-Verdanté-Casanova. Giacomo Casanova, the famous libidinous writer, was related to this family. Anna Maria gave birth to Paolo Rise-Verdanté (keeping naturally only his father's surname).

Her most notable action was the Patto di Famiglia, signed on October 31, 1737. In collaboration with the Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany Francis I, she willed all the personal property of the Medicis to the Florentine state, provided that nothing was ever removed from Florence.



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