Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany

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Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Cosimo III de' Medici, granduca di Toscana (Granduke) and Marguerite Louise d'Orléans, Grand Duchess consort of Tuscany
Husband of Violante Beatriz Juana de Baviera, Princesa de Toscana
Brother of Anna Maria Luisa de Medici and Gian Gastone de' Medici, granduca di Toscana (Granduke)

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About Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany


Ferdinando de' Medici (9 August 1663 – 31 October 1713) was the elder son of Cosimo III de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Marguerite Louise d'Orléans. Ferdinando was heir to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, with the title Grand Prince, from his father's accession in 1670 until his death in 1713. He is remembered today primarily as a patron of music. An excellent musician himself (sometimes called "the Orpheus of princes"), he recruited top musicians to Florence and thus made it an important musical center of his time.[1] Through his patronage of Bartolomeo Cristofori, Ferdinando made possible the invention (1700) of the piano.

Ferdinando was born to Cosimo de' Medici and his wife Marguerite Louise of Orléans, a granddaughter of Maria de' Medici. When Ferdinando's parents separated in 1675, his mother (who disdained her husband only slightly more than Florence did) returned to Paris, where she was supposed to be restricted to a monastery in Montmartre. Ferdinando became a rebellious youth, who disagreed intensely with his father on every subject.[2]

Ferdinando had a great affinity with his vivacious mother. He was handsome, a fine rider, a talented musician. He sang melodiously, and played the harpsichord. He was a master in counterpoint which he studied under Gianmaria Paliardi of Genoa and various bow instruments which he studied under Piero Salvetti. He was known for his ability to play music at sight [3] and afterwards repeat the piece faultlessly without looking at the music.[4]

Aside from music, Ferdinando's other principal delight was in intimate liaisons and affairs, often with men. These included Petrillo, a musician, famous for his beauty and a Venetian castrato by the name of Cecchino. His uncle Francesco Maria de' Medici, only three years older, had a strong influence on his life.

In 1689 Ferdinando married to Violante of Bavaria, the plain daughter of the elector of Bavaria Ferdinand and Adelaide of Savoy. Although she liked music also and loved him, her feelings were not returned by Ferdinando and the marriage was unhappy and barren.

In 1696, Ferdinando sought recreation in Venice. Ferdinando fell in love with a female vocalist called La Bambagia.[5] It is presumed that during the Carnival of Venice, Ferdinando contracted syphilis. Victoria Tarquini, called La Bombace, the wife of the concertmaster Jean-Baptiste Farinel became the mistress of Ferdinando. (She may have been a daughter of Robert Cambert and had an affair with Handel.[6])

By 1710 his health had begun to fail, and the annual operatic productions at Pratolino under his aegis (see below) ceased.

Ferdinando died in 1713, having not produced any children. His father ruled a number of years after him, and was succeeded on his death by Ferdinando's younger brother Gian Gastone, who likewise died childless. The lack of fecundity in the family ultimately led to a crisis: following Gian Gastone's death in 1737, the great powers of Europe reassigned the Grand Duchy to Francis, the husband of Maria Theresia, thus ending the independence of the Tuscan state.


Ferdinando's contemporary reputation rests on his role as patron of the arts. He was a connoisseur: he bought Madonnas by Raphael and Andrea del Sarto. He also patronized Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Anton Domenico Gabbiani and Sebastiano Ricci. Crespi was long employed by him at Pitti. Ferdinando organized the first public exhibition of fine arts to be held in Florence (1705, in the cloister of SS. Annunziata).[7] Among poets he befriended Vincenzo da Filicaja and Benedetto Menzini. Scipione Maffei's dedication to him of the Giornale de' Letterati (1710) is a proof of Ferdinando's widespread reputation.

But it was as a patron of music that Ferdinando was most distinguished. He kept a villa in Pratolino, located some 12 km outside Florence, (now called the Villa Demidoff after a later owner, Anatole Demidov) which was home to many musical activities. From the years 1679 to 1710, there were annual operatic productions there, generally held in September. At first these were held in the grand salon, but starting in 1696 in a new theatre built on the third floor at Ferdinando's instigation, designed by Antonio Maria Ferri.[8] Until 1686, the performances were supervised by Ferdinando's uncle Francesco Maria de' Medici; after that year (when Francesco Maria became a cardinal) they were Ferdinando's responsibility.[9]

Among the musicians Ferdinando invited to Florence were Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Giacomo Antonio Perti, Giovanni Legrenzi, Giovanni Pagliardi, Carlo Pollaroli, Giuseppe Maria Orlandini, Benedetto Marcello and Bernardo Pasquini.[10] George Frederic Handel [11] and Alessandro Scarlatti probably played on the instruments either in the Palazzo Pitti, or in the Medicean country villa of Poggio a Caiano or at Pratolino. Antonio Salvi, the family doctor, wrote several librettos, used by Handel for his opera.[12] Handel's Rodrigo (opera) was first performed in Florence in 1708.

Ferdinando kept up correspondence with Alessandro Scarlatti about musical details in his operas, while producing five of his operas. In 1711 Antonio Vivaldi dedicated his Estro Armonico to him. Handel and Corelli were well acquainted with Ferdinando's sister Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici; Corelli dedicated to her the 12 concerti grossi. Handel would visit her also in Düsseldorf during continental trips.

Ferdinando, Cristofori, and the piano

Ferdinando's most permanent legacy was the result of his decision in 1688 to hire Bartolomeo Cristofori, a harpsichord builder from Padua, as his keeper of musical instruments. (Ferdinando's collection was a large one, with over 75 items). The Prince's support of Cristofori included the money and time Cristofori needed to pursue his interests as an inventor. Cristofori responded with a series of new instruments. The first two, the oval spinet (1690) and the spinettone, were probably intended for Ferdinando to play the continuo part in musical productions at Pratolino. The third instrument Cristofori invented for Ferdinando was the piano, which spread slowly at first (see Fortepiano) but ultimately became one of the most important of all musical instruments. The invention of the piano is believed to have occurred in about 1700; Cristofori built several more pianos for Ferdinando during the remainder of the Prince's lifetime.

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Ferdinando de' Medici, Grand Prince of Tuscany's Timeline

August 9, 1663
October 31, 1713
Age 50