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Old 04-17-2007, 05:40 AM
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Following her marriage to Duke Cosimo I de' Medici in 1539, Eleonora di Toledo began to assert herself with surprising force into affairs of Florentine state, commerce, and culture. She came to play a key role in several vital areas of the city’s life – notably its agriculture, finance, religion, and even governance. Meanwhile, she was an active patron of the arts, and the evolution of her patronage suggests a growing self-awareness of her political importance as Duchess of Florence. Why, given our understanding of the passive roles proper to courtly wives in the mid-cinquecento, was Duchess Eleonora di Toledo able to play such an active role in matters of Florentine state culture? It seems clear that Eleonora’s wealth, reproductive success, and remarkable bond with her husband gave her uncustomary leverage for a courtly bride. But beyond these measures, Eleonora became a forceful presence in Cosimo's regime because she applied such clout in a shrewdly intercessory capacity within the parameters of her husband's political agenda. A glance at some of Eleonora’s activities in relation to behavioral standards for her position will lead us to an examination of some of her accomplishments within Cosimo's regime. From here we will examine assets and strategies she could make use of to effect these accomplishments. We will conclude by looking at how she conceptualized her own intercessory capabilities in the cycle of “Famous Women,” completed with her input shortly before her death, which decorates her former apartments at the Palazzo Vecchio.
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