On February 18th Florence celebrates one of the finest art patrons belonging to the House Medici. She was of the most forward thinking women of the entire dinasty : thanks to her today there is an outstanding number of treasures which will always be linked to the city of Florence.
Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (11 August 1667 – 18 February 1743) was the last scion of the House of Medici. A patron of the arts, she bequeathed the Medici’s large art collection, including the contents of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti and the Medicean villas, which she inherited upon her brother Gian Gastone’s death in 1737, and her Palatine treasures to the Tuscan state, on the condition that no part of it could be removed from “the Capital of the grand ducal State….[and from] the succession of His Serene Grand Duke.”
Anna Maria Luisa was the only daughter of Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Marguerite Louise d’Orléans, a niece of Louis XIII of France. On her marriage to Elector Johann Wilhelm II, she became Electress Palatine, and, by patronising musicians, she earned for the contemporary Palatine court the reputation of an important music centre. As Johann Wilhelm had syphilis the union produced no offspring, which, combined with her siblings’ barrenness, meant that the House Medici were on the verge of extinction.
At the accompanying festivities, a contemporary describes the Electress’s physical attributes: “In her person, she is tall, her complexion was fair, her eyes large and expressive, both those and her hair were black; her mouth was small, with a fullness of the lips; her teeth were as white as ivory….”
In 1713 Cosimo III altered the Tuscan laws of succession to allow the accession of his daughter, and spent his final years canvassing the European powers to agree to recognise this statute. However, in 1735, as part of a territorial arrangement, the European powers appointed Francis Stephen of Lorraine as heir, and he duly ascended the Tuscan throne in her stead. After the death of Johann Wilhelm, Anna Maria Luisa returned to Florence, where she enjoyed the rank of first lady until the accession of her brother Gian Gastone, who banished her to the Villa La Quiete. When Gian Gastone died in 1737, Francis Stephen’s envoy offered Anna Maria Luisa the position of nominal regent of Tuscany, but she declined. Her death, in 1743, brought the royal House of Medici to an end.
Her most notable act, and endless gift to the town of Florence, was the Patto di Famiglia (” Family Pact “), signed on 31 October 1737. In collaboration with the Holy Roman Emperor and Francis of Lorraine, she willed all the personal property of the Medici’s to the Tuscan state, provided that nothing was ever removed from Florence.
“Patto di Famiglia” established that the Lorraine family could NOT trasport NOR sell any gallery, jewel, statue, library and other precious objects out of the town of Florence: they all had to remain gathered in Florence as Ornament of the State, public utility and for the enjoyment of the foreigners’ curiosity.
Grazie di cuore Anna Maria Luisa!