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Bronzino at the Uffizi: the portrait of Eleonora di Toledo with her son Giovanni

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Eleonora di Toledo (1519-1562) married Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1539, and bore him eight children. Here she is shown with her first son, the second-born Giovanni (1543-1562), future cardinal. To this cherished son the court portrait painter Bronzino dedicated an individual portrait, also in the Tribuna. Wearing a coral pendant, an amulet against early death, Giovanni is shown smiling, holding a goldfinch in his hand. “The portrait of S. Don Giovanni is truly alive” wrote Pier Francesco Riccio, Cosimo’s steward, in 1545. In the portrait of Giovanni with his mother the pose is less immediate, almost in harmony with the melancholy gaze of the woman.

Eleonora’s role as a mother is marked by the pomegranates embroidered on her dress, a symbol of fecundity which appears again on the ceiling of her chapel in Palazzo Vecchio, also frescoed by Bronzino. The brocade dress with Spanish embroidery is identical to the one found in 1857 inside the tomb of the Duchess in the Medici Chapel. The background landscape may show the Grand Duke’s dominions.

 

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