Florence art guide

Ferdinando II dé Medici

ferdinando I

Grand Duke of Tuscany
Florence 1610-1670

The son of Cosimo II and Maria Maddelena of Austria, his father died when he was only ten years old and he spent the next seven years under the guardianship of his mother and his grandmother, Cristina of Lorraine. In that period Tuscany was extremly poverty-stricken and full of religious zealots; the Grand Duchess Regents further dissipated the slender resources of the country in aid of the armies of France and Spain (the Thirty Years¹ War was about to break out), and in pensions to "converts".
Of limited intelligence but kind hearted and cultured, Ferdinando tried to improve the fortunes of the Grand Duchy by bringing his numerous brothers in to form part of his government (brave Mattias, Cardinal Giovan Carlo and Prince Leopoldo, who was a real genius and the family patron of the arts: he is the man who was responsible for collecting most of the paintings and drawings that are contained in the Galleries of the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi in Florence today) and by launching numerous initiatives and research in the agronomic field. However, in spite of all his efforts, he was never able to save the country from the continuous repetition of plague and famine (in some years there were as many as 9.000 victims in Florence alone, without counting the depopulation in the surrounding countryside).

accademy of cimento
Academy of Cimento

He was no luckier in his policies. Having lost the Duchy of Urbino, which was his by right as husband of the last heir of the Della Rovere family, Vittoria, whom he married in 1634, he also failed in his attempt to create a League among the Italian States (1635) to try and prevent the alternate predominance of the Spanish and the French. Ferdinando did not have the character of his great-grandfather, Cosimo I, and he knew it only too well. For this reason he preferred to enlarge his dominion by paying for it in cash: in 1634 he paid out the enormous sum of 50.000 scudi to buy the city of Pontremoli from Spain and also bought the county of Santa Fiora from Count Mario Sforza.
His greatest interest was science which was eventually to gratify him most of all. A student of Galileo Galilei and later of his followers, Torricelli and Viviani, he founded the "Medici Experimental Academy" (1642) and then patronized the Cimento Academy. which was created by his brother Leopoldo (1657) and was the first proper experimental scientifieated by his brother Leopoldo (1657) and was the first proper experimental scientific society in Europe (its motto was "Try and try again"). In this field he personally completed the inventions of the thermometer and the thermoscope, he encouraged chemistry at the Botanical gardens in Pisa, while also trying to find practical applications for the latest technical knowledge in agriculture (he was a real enthusiast in botanics and meteorology).
His political weakness prevented him from saving Galileo from the Holy Office, but he did everything he could to defend him during the tower of its Cathedral (1213) standing out in their midst.
among the Florentine hills, where he died on January 8th 1642.

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