Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grand Duke Cosimo II de Medici

Bust of Grand Duke Cosimo II inside
the Medici coat of arms, on the new grain
market built during his reign on the corner
of via dei Neri & via de Castellani

The front page of Galileo's treatise
Sidereus Nuncius 1610
dedicated to Cosimo II

Porphyry bust of Cosimo II,
Pitti Palace
The other day a mate of mine sent me a photo of a stone bust of Cosimo II de Medici that he saw on the facade of a palace and asked me who it was, and so I thought that this often overlooked Medici grand duke could be the subject of this week’s blog entry. It is often very frustrating that written indication isn’t engraved somewhere on the stone or marble of portrait busts dotted around the city, or are too difficult to read, thus obscuring any further understanding of the rich Florentine heritage. Cosimo II is another favourite Medici of mine, he didn’t rule for very long (1609-21) being of weak constitution, but he shared characteristics of so many of the great Medici men; he was very intelligent, a great patron of the arts and aesthetically, quite a peculiar looking human being. He and his wife, Maria Maddalena of Austria, created a flourishing intellectual activity at the court at the Pitti Palace (the Ducal palace) with Michangelo Buonarroti the Younger (to distinguish him from his great uncle, the great Michelangelo Buonarroti, artist from the previous century) as the court poet, and Galileo as the court mathematician and  philosopher. They invited many talented non-Florentine artists to the court, such as Justus Sustermans from Flanders (court painter to the Medici family for close to forty years) and Artemesia Gentileschi from Rome (the first female member of the Florentine Accademy of Fine Arts), enriching the domestic artistic ambience. Galileo who had been Cosimo II's tutor 1605-08 was working at Padua Universtiy when he published his recent discoveries concerning the skies. Desiring to return to Florence, he dedicated his treatise Sidereus Nuncius in 1610 to Cosimo II consequently securing him the court position. In this treatise he expounded his recent discoveries concerning phases of the moon, the existance of the Milky Way and the four satellites stars orbiting around Jupiter. He called these the Medicean stars (they have been renamed the Galilean Moons). Cosimo II was the father of Leopold (see blog entry 'Never judge a book...) and succeded by his eldest son Ferdinando II who, like his father, also commissioned expert artists for work on the ducal palace, such as the Baroque master, Pietro da Cortona for the decoration of the reception rooms and Bolognese experts in trompe l'oeil technique for the summer appartments....subject for another entry.

Judith slaying Holofornes, Artemesia Gentileschi, Uffizi gallery.
Painted during her Florentine period under the protection of Cosimo II & Maria Maddalena

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