Costumes and official representation from the 16th-18th century went through a variety of styles and fashions across decades and countries.
In Italy, there were certain aesthetics that became evident amongst noble men and women, which can be seen in the portraits and paintings that depict the people who lived during those eras.
Popular themes in both men’s and women’s clothing included patterns, embroidery, ornamentation, essentially anything that could convey wealth and opulence in just appearance.
Broad hips in a cone shape for women and a box shape for men, at the shoulders, to create an overall wide silhouette, were incredibly popular in the mid-16th century, before changing into a long shape with v-lined waists, which came back into style in the 1700s.
Additions of lace at the collar and sleeves, or jewels and brooches along the bodice, were common in upper-class women, especially when posing for portraits.
Men had similar ruffled collars and sleeves, though usually stiffer and heavier. Outer clothes for men were usually made with leather and had boning on the inside to keep their shape, the fabric itself was typically colourful and highly decorated to denote wealth and status.
These characteristics are visible in the portraits of this section. It is important to note the differences in the subjects during their transition from Signoria to Grand Duchy, and from “condottiere” to that of ruler. Some of the portraits are posthumous, produced to illustrate the Medici family’s roots.
Differences in clothing denote the members of the Medici family destined to become grand dukes, as opposed to those destined for military or ecclesiastical careers.
Famed banker and politician Lorenzo di Magnifico was a well-known Florentine who loved and supported artists throughout Florence. Few contemporary portraits of Lorenzo exist, most of them and also that of Stibbert Museum are realized posthumous to reconstruct the root of the family.
Giovanni delle Bande Nere is also known as Lodovico de Medici (1498-1526) the son of Giovanni de Medici and Caterina Sforza.
He was a talented military captain who died relatively young in battle.
This portrait was one of many commissioned to commemorate his years of service in the Florentine military.
The warrior in this painting can be identified as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere because of the iconography: in 1521, at the age of 23, during a war against the French, he was made commander of the military corps known as the "lance spezzate" (broken lancers) which was a militia of select warriors in the personal service of kings or captains.
This might justify the ornamental banner on the top right with the script, “DI ANNI XXIII” (OF 23 YEARS) and the broken lance he holds in his left hand.
Like all portraits of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, this one is a posthumous, and this fact perhaps explains the abstract qualities of the physiognomy and the erroneous details of the side sword. The two rings and the reinforcment of the cross-guard do not perfectly correspond with sword types in use during his lifetime.
Girolamo Macchietti, called Gerolamo del Crocifissaio (1535-1592)
On loan at City Hall of Florence
Alessandro de Medici is one of the more controversial figures in the Medici history. Nicknames il Moro (the Moor) for his darker complexion it was claimed that Alessandro was the illegitimate son of Giulio de Medici (Future Pope Clement VII) and a servant of African descent (Simonetta da Collevecchio) and not Lorenzo II as was claimed. Even besides that controversy, he was also the last heir of the main Medici line who was murdered during his rule of Florence by his cousin Lorenzaccio from the secondary Medici line. There are few documented portraits of him due to his short life (1510-1537).
After Scipione Pulzone (1550-1598)
On loan at Caserma Baldissera, Florence
Francesco I was the second Grand Duke of Florence and was known for being more despotic than his father Cosimo I de Medici. He was born in 1541 and ruled Florence from 1574 until his death in 1587.
After Scipione Pulzone (1550-1598)
Ferdinando I (1549-1809) was the younger brother of Francesco I and took over as Grand Duke when his brother died, ruling from 1587 till his own death in 1609. He was also made a Cardinal at 14 in 1562 but was never officially ordained. Very different from his brother, Ferdinando wanted to begin work in the arts which would soon become a Medici tradition.
Cosimo II (1590-1621) was Grand Duke of Tuscany from his father Ferdinando’s death in 1609 until his own death in 1621.
Growing up Cosimo’s personal tutor was the famed scientist Galileo Galilei who he later gave his patronage to when Galileo presented his Sidereus Nuncius which was dedicated to Cosimo.
Cosimo was known as a patron of science and literature choosing to rely on his administrators to handle most of the governing of Florence.
He did, in his time as Grand Duke, increase the power of Florence’s navy.
Cosimo was in an arranged marriage to the Archduchess Maria Maddalena of Austria and together they had eight children some of whom became cardinals, duchesses, and of course, the next Grand Duke.
Since Cosimo died so young of tuberculosis his successor, Ferdinando II his eldest son, was too young to rule immediately so Cosimo dictated in his will that his wife rule until his son was deemed ready to take over.
Despite not being very involved in local government, Cosimo II was still well liked by the people of Florence.
Ferdinando II (1610-1670) was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1621 until his death.
Ferdinando’s father died when he was 10 so his mother and grandmother ruled as regents until he turned 18, and some say held the real power of the throne all along.
Much like his father and Grandfather Ferdinando was a patron of the sciences and was also a supporter of Galileo Galilei, even trying to protect him from the Holy See’s Inquisition into heresy.
Unfortunately, Ferdinando’s rule also marked a period of economic decline in Tuscany during his almost 70-year rule. However, it also allowed for great scientific advancements in Tuscany due to Ferdinando’s dedication to science.
Much like his ancestors, Ferdinando was less interested in government than in science and literature and wanted to make sure to be a dedicated patron to as many people as he could during his lifetime, setting a precedent for art patronage in all future Medici dukes.
Florentine School of the 17th century
Area of Christofano dell’Altissimo (1525 – 1605)
Justus Suttermans (1597 – 1681)
Justus Suttermans (1597 – 1681)