Eleonora de’ Medici
Eleonora de’ Medici also known as Eleonora of Toledo was the
first wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici.
She was the second daughter of the Viceroy of Naples, Don
Pedro di Toledo, Marquis of Francavilla, the Emperor Charles V’s senior
In 1539 Cosimo I married her as part of his policy to
strengthen his connections with the Emperor. The union appears to have been
happy and resulted in 11 children, two of whom eventually succeeded to the
Grand Duchy of Tuscany: Francesco I de’ Medici, on Cosimo’s death in 1574, and
Ferdinando I de’
Medici in 1587.
Spanish by birth, and notably pious, Eleonora retained the influences - and language - of her
upbringing throughout her life. Her physical beauty is attested to by a considerable number of portraits by Agnolo
An imperious woman of considerable intelligence, Eleonora was passionately interested in
gambling, despite her deeply religious nature. Once settled in Florence, she demonstrated great business acumen and
was instrumental in enlarging the Medici fortune by astute dealings in land and property. In 1550, for example, she
bought the Palazzo Pitti, which then became the official Medici residence in Florence. According to Vasari, it was
Eleonora who arranged for it to be enlarged and for the redesigning of the land attached to it (now the Boboli
Palazzo Pitti, Florence
As a patron, Eleonora embraced both charitable causes and the arts, although, according to
Benvenuto Cellini, she was as autocratic and capricious in this respect as she was in most other matters. She was
closely associated with many of the major Florentine artists of the period, including Niccolò Tribolo, Bronzino,
Pierino da Vinci, Cellini himself and Baccio Bandinelli. Cellini discussed Eleonora’s pleasure both in acquiring
and wearing jewelry - an interest evident in the Bronzino portraits, in all of which she is extremely richly
dressed in heavy brocade robes liberally embroidered with pearls, for which she had a particular passion.
Bronzino - Palazzo Vecchio, Cappella di Eleonora
The project with which the Duchess is most closely
associated is the chapel bearing her name in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence,
commissioned Bronzino to decorate.
The small private chapel, frescoed with scenes from the Life
of Moses (1540–1545), is a major work of Florentine Mannerism, and perhaps the
most complete extant indication of Eleonora’s own taste.Bronzino’s altarpiece,
a Lamentation includes an idealized portrait of Eleonora in a prominent
position within the narrative.
She was also involved in the ‘Elevati’, a literary academy
founded by her husband in 1547. The poet Laura Battiferri (1525–1589), who, in
common with Eleonora, was influenced by Jesuit thought, dedicated the first
publication of her poetry to Eleonora in 1560.