The Salviati in the Seventeenth Century: Art, Religion, and Family Honour.
Klazina Dieuwke Botke
Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; Klassieke Academie, Groningen
The Salviati family had been politically and financially thriving during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and many members of the family had become important art patrons and collectors. During the seventeenth century however, their economic position changed. The financial crisis in Tuscany affected the textile trade. This led to the end of the Salviati’s wool company in 1608 and the closing of many branches of the Salviati bank. Simultaneously, the family’s role in the cultural life of Florence took a new direction; they became more actively involved in the arts. Duke Jacopo Salviati (1607-1672) published various poems, took singing lessons, and performed in theatrical plays. In 1633, for example, he wrote a comedy together with Andrea Salvadori. The performance took place in Palazzo Salviati for an audience of friends and relations. This included his friend Gian Carlo de’ Medici (1611-1663), who even mentions Jacopo’s singing in a letter to Mattias de’ Medici.
Jacopo also published several poems, including a book of religious sonnets: De fiori dell’orto di Gessaemani e del Calvario: sonetti del Duca Salviati (1667). The influence of Torquato Tasso and Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas is apparent and displays Jacopo’s ambition to be a writer of prominence. This creative output was a new way of interacting with the arts. It altered the relationship between patron and artist, but also opened up new possibilities for the patrician families to maintain their position in Florentine society.
In his commissions, Jacopo gave visual and textual proof of the importance of his family and the essential role the Salviati had played in the history of Florence. In 1628 he commissioned Francesco Furini to create a painting of a young Cosimo I and Alessandro de’ Medici with their Salviati mothers to commemorate his wedding to Veronica Cibo. Andrea Salvadori was asked to compose a poem on the same subject. Both the painting and the poem accentuated the fact that the Medici could not have become leaders of Tuscany and Rome without the Salviati. A similar idea can be observed in Jacopo’s commission for a sculpture of Cosimo I made by Giovanni di Francesco Susini. The accompanying inscription on the statue focusses on Cosimo’s bloodline and thus on his mother, Maria Salviati. These commissions expressed, directly and indirectly, the relationship the Salviati had with the ruling family.
Jacopo’s approach was distinctively different from his predecessor’s. He used his family’s history to validate his own position in society, and conspicuously presented himself as the Medici’s equal, even when (or maybe because) his family had become more and more dependent on the Medici court. In my paper I will explore Jacopo Salviati’s intellectual and cultural life further, and I will analyse in what way his art commissions reflected and signalled political, economic and social developments in Florence during the seventeenth century.