Friday, August 20, 2010

The Statue of Grand Duke Cosimo III de'Medici

There are any number of misconceptions about the garden. One particularly irksome one is that the statue that dominates the heart of the lower garden is not original to the 16th Century design.  In fact, it was placed there in the 1950s for its protection after the Palazzo Chigi had been damaged during the Second World War.

The statue depicts the Grand Duke Cosimo III de'Medici (1642-1723). The statue was made as a way to thank the Grand Duke for giving the title of Marchese of San Quirico to Cardinal Flavio Chigi in 1677. This portrait was originally set in the ballroom of the Palazzo Chigi. There are many of us who think it should be put back as the finishing touch of a just-completed lengthy restoration of the building.

What really rankles me is that this particular Grand Duke was one of the most reviled of all of the Medici Grand Dukes and, one could say, single-handedly brought the Medici dynasty to an end (not necessarily a bad thing). He was corrupt and fanatically religious. He did away with religious tolerance proclaimed by Ferdinando I back in early 1600s and routinely punishing those who did not obey; public executions were extremely common. During his reign, trade all over Tuscany declined, population decreased substantially by malaria, plague, and food shortages, while taxes were routinely increased [p. 197-201. Hibbert, Christopher: Florence, The Biography of a City, London: Penguin Books, 1993].

So why does this despicable ruler have a place of honor in this utterly unique place?

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