Florence art guide

Ferdinando I dei Medici

ferdinando I

Grand Duke of Tuscany
Florence 1549 - 1609

The second son of Cosimo I, he abandoned his cardinal's hat for the throne in 1587, after the death of his brother Francesco I, who died without a male heir. He governed with great skill, improving commercial and industrial activity and agriculture in particular by reclaiming large areas of land in the Val di Chiana, Maremma and Val di Nievole.

Chapel of Princes
Funeral Monument
Chapel of Princes

He opposed Florentine municipalism and created the free port of Leghorn, which was founded as a city by Francesco I in 1577 and built according to a town-planning scheme by Buontalenti. He created an efficient navy which defeated the Turkish fleet several times (Famagusta 1608, Bona 1609). His military exploits were frescoed by Bernardino Poccetti in the Sala di Bona in the Pitti Palace. In order to check the power of Spain, he married Cristina of Lorraine (who gave him eight sons), thus making an alliance with France and supporting Henry IV, whom he also managed to persuade to marry his niece Maria, the daughter of his brother Francesco. He only made approaches to Spain after the fall of Saluzzese, when he arranged the marriage of his first born son with the Archduchess Maria Maddalena d'Austria, the sister of the Emperor.
He was a patron of the arts like his forefathers: he gave Buontalenti the commission of carrying out the Fortress of Belvedere, which became the family strong-room, while Giambologna was given the task of sculpting the statue of Cosimo I in Piazza Signoria and building the villas of Artimino and Ambrogiana. He started building the Medici Chapels in San Lorenzo in 1604. He protected the historian Scipione Ammirato and promoted the Camerata dei Bardi, a musical association, whose works of melodrama eventually paved the way for the great traditions of Italian lyric opera.

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