COSIMO I de' Medici

(1519-1574)
Cosimo I de' Medici, powerful duke of Florence and grand duke of Tuscany, guaranteed the glorious reputation of his reign through his vigorous patronage of art and architecture. His father was Giovanni delle Bande Nere, the famous condottiere, and his grandmother was the indomitable Caterina Sforza; his mother, Maria Salviati, was the granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Given his illustrious and ambitious ancestry, it is perhaps no surprise that Cosimo was chosen the next duke of Florence (1537) when his predecessor, his distant relative Alessandro de' Medici, was murdered. Cosimo proved to be a mercurial but capable ruler, establishing Florence's independence from Spain, conquering Siena and its territories, and eventually becoming grand duke of Tuscany in 1569.
When Cosimo was twenty, he married Eleanora of Toledo,* the daughter of the Spanish viceroy of Naples. Though both the duke and the duchess were said to be willful and temperamental, they were devoted to each other; their marriage was a happy one and produced several children. They were both zealous art patrons, though some scholars have argued that Cosimo was primarily interested in art for its propagandistic potential. Bronzino* served as court artist for several years, creating several paintings of Cosimo, his wife and children, and even his dwarf Morgante. Giorgio Vasari* succeeded Bronzino as official painter; he was also commissioned to redecorate the Palazzo Vecchio with a series of frescoes celebrating the Medici dynasty and to oversee work on the Uffizi Palace. Cosimo also commissioned the bronze statue Perseus with the Head ofMedusa (1543­53) from Benvenuto Cellini* for the Piazza della Signoria. Cosimo was inter­ested in beautifying the entire city of Florence to glorify the achievements of the Medici dynasty; to that purpose he employed numerous artists and architects.
When Eleanora died in 1562, Cosimo was devastated, and he abdicated two years later in favor of his son, Francesco; the last decade of his life was marked by ill health. His legacy, however, is rich and enduring; it was due to his pow­erful patronage that many of Renaissance Florence's great works of art and architecture were created.
Bibliography
J. R. Hale, Florence and the Medici: The Pattern of Control, 1977.
Jo Eldridge Carney

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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