Your Way to Florence: Maria de' Medici
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  Maria de' Medici 

Maria de'Medici
A Florentine Princess on the Throne of France

Museo degli Argenti, Pitti Palace, Florence

March 19 - September 4, 2005

Who was Maria de' Medici, though? Much more is known, or believed to be known, about her illustrious forbear Catherine who, on the throne of France, was protagonist of clamorous and dramatic events destined to remain in the collective memory, such as the Saint Bartholomew's Massacre. This second queen of France from the family of the rulers of Florence, born in 1573 and died in 1642, instead demanded an updated profile, adding nuances and details to a negative image consolidated by centuries.

Daughter of the reserved and refined Francesco I whose name is tied to the Studiolo in Palazzo Vecchio and the sophisticated culture of late Mannerism, Maria grew up in one of the most advanced courts of Europe for collecting, for the quality and sumptuousness of artistic and handicrafts productions, for musical and theatre inventions and, not lastly, for politics that made all this a very efficient means of promotion. Her youth unfolded between the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens, the villa at Pratolino and the other Medici residences, lessons in music and painting, devotional practises and sumptuous dresses, as preparation for the royal destiny that had been predicted for her.

Among the artists who frequented the Florentine court, Alessandro Allori, Jacopo Ligozzi, Empoli, Cigoli, Giambologna and Ferdinando Tacca were the ones who contributed to forming her artistic culture which, all in all, was to represent the most precious patrimony that she took with her to France.

At the end of the XVI century, the mutable conjunctures of history had drawn the grand duchy of Tuscany, till then under the direct or indirect rule of Spain, closer to France, ruled as of 1589 by Henry IV of Bourbon (1553 - 1610).

Formerly married to Catherine de'Medici's daughter Margaret (the famous "Queen Margot"), and head of the Huguenots, Henry embraced Catholicism to be legitimated as sovereign and, with political foresight and resourcefulness, set to reordering the state after the long years of religious war. With Maria de'Medici A Florentine Princess on the Throne of France the good offices of Ferdinando I de' Medici, he succeeded in divorcing his first wife in order to marry Maria, the grand duke's niece, and thus come into her enormous dowry which also included the partial settlement of his debts with the Medicis. The wedding celebrated by proxy in Florence in October 1600, was the occasion for festivities and spectacles of which chronicles of the time left dazzling descriptions: the very wedding ceremony in the cathedral was an extraordinary theatrical event, as were also several musical and iconographical inventions prepared for the occasion.

The first section illustrates the Medici court in the last decades of the 1500s with various portraits: first and foremost are the important portraits of Maria herself and of her family, some of them on show for the first time. These include beautiful paintings depicting the young princess, such as the one attributed to Scipione Pulzone (Casa Vasari, Arezzo) or the full-figure painting by Santi di Tito (Palatine Gallery, Florence).

There follows a rich selection of the most representative works and objects that the young Maria could have seen produced and available in Florence, thus informing of how, at the same time, the arts could be a support to politics. A lesson which she took to France, lending a fundamental support to consolidating the power of Henry IV and preparing the successive politics of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. The works on show include precious small paintings (by Alessandro Allori, Jacopo Ligozzi, Cigoli, Empoli, Santi di Tito .), refined objects from the grand-ducal workshops on designs by Buontalenti, small bronze statues by Giambologna, majolica, crystal, semiprecious stones and furniture such as the Table with Signs of the Zodiac.

The second section is dedicated to the festivities for Maria's wedding in Florence with particular interest for the entertainments and musical novelties produced for the occasion, in addition to the fashion and customs of the period. Also on show are documenti autografi by Maria herself, musical texts and librettos, a mandola of the early 1600s, chronicles of the period, as well as a rich documentation of period fabrics.

Novelty is represented by a large painting by Alessandro Allori, restored for the exhibition and portraying The Wedding at Cana, in which the true protagonist is Maria dressed as the bride, and a large, never before exhibited painting from a private collection by an artist of the Rubens milieu and preparatory for Maria Lands in Marseilles.

The section dedicated to France illustrates French production during Maria de' Medici's reign and regency with paintings of extraordinary quality and importance, as well as important commissions to Italian artists. It includes works from the most important French museums - first and foremost the Louvre - by Philippe de Champaigne, Laurent de La Hyre, Horace Le Blanc, Nicolas Freminet, Claude Vignon . as well as Frans Pourbus (the large Annunciation of Nancy and the portrait of the sovereigns) and Simon Vouet.

Opening hours:

8.15-17.30 month of March.
8.15-18.30 months of April, May, September.
8.15-19.30 months of June, July, August.

Ticket office closes one hour before closing.

Closed: first and last Monday of the month and May 1.

Ticket prices:

Full rate 6,00 (includes admission to the Museo degli Argenti and the Boboli garden)

Concession 3,00 for European Community citizens, 18 to 25 years of age.

Free admission for European Community citizens under 18 and over 65 years of age.

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