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Art and Politics

The Electress Palatine and the final season of Medici patronage in San Lorenzo

04-08-2014 | 11-02-2014

There are many reasons for paying due tribute to the Electress Palatine, the last descendent of the Grand-ducal branch of the Medici dynasty. Indeed the last years of her life – following the death of her brother the last Medici Grand Duke Gian Gastone – were intimately bound up with the present and future life of her State, for the safeguarding of which she drafted the “Family Pact”, the fundamental document that guaranteed the protection and conservation of the heritage of the Medici within their city and their State.

The idea for the exhibition stemmed from a 2012 project organised in collaboration between the REM museums of Mannheim – which wished to honour the memory of the Electress who lived and reigned in Germany following her marriage to the Elector Palatine Johann Wilhelm von Pfalz Neuburg, from 1691 to 1716 - the Museum of the Medici Chapels, the Faculty of Medical Surgery of the University of Florence and the Superintendencies for the Archaeological Heritage of Tuscany, for the Architectural, Landscape, Historic, Artistic and Ethno-Anthropological Heritage   of the Province of Florence and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. This project led, between the 8th and 22nd October of 2012, to the control of the state of conservation of the mortal remains of the Electress and the rehabilitation of the tomb as well as the restoration of part of the important collection of grave goods.

The Museum of the Medici Chapels decided to illustrate to the public the results of this research and restoration by organising this exhibition, centred in particular on the last years of life of the Electress.

Among the outcomes of the control of the tomb and the remains of the last descendent of the Medici, the show displays to the public for the first time two gold medals, two coins and the dedicatory plaque. In addition, the exhibition is also intended to cast light on what Anna Maria Luisa did for art and politics in Florence from 1737, when her brother Gian Gastone died up to the year of her own death in 1743. It presents novelties and authentic rarities emerging from the new studies and researches that followed in the wake of the monographic show devoted to the Electress in 2006, curated by Stefano Casciu (The wise princess. The legacy of  Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, Electress Palatine).

The show is divided into four sections designed to introduce the heterogeneous public of the Museum of the Medici Chapels to the personality of the Princess. The first, Childhood and the adolescent years at Poggio Imperiale, briefly illustrates her education and the years of her early youth that she spent at the Medici Villa of Poggio Imperiale with her brothers Ferdinando and Gian Gastone, her uncle Francesco Maria and her grandmother Vittoria della Rovere.  The second section, Youth and marriage, opens with the fine portrait of Anna Maria Luisa as Flora by Antonio Franchi and deals with the period of her marriage to the Elector Palatine of the Rhine, Johann Wilhelm, celebrated in 1691, and her long sojourn in Germany where the couple were intensely engaged in artistic patronage, well-represented by the works commissioned from Bartolomeo Van Douven, whose famous Allegory of the Electors Palatine as Patrons of the Arts can be admired at the exhibition. The third section, The return to Florence and the commitment to the family church, constitutes the core of the exhibition, illustrating the years immediately following the return to Florence of the Electress after the death of her husband in 1716. The events of these years significantly affected the complex of San Lorenzo, which was enhanced by important commissions made by Anna Maria Luisa, presented here in the light of new “political” documents. Following the “Family Pact” of 1737, the Princess indeed launched the final season of Medici patronage in the great complex of San Lorenzo: “Anna Maria set in motion a wide-ranging series of  commission initiatives which were focused on San Lorenzo, comprising the construction of the bell-tower, the painting of the cupola of the basilica, the project for the decoration of the ceiling of the Chapel of the Princes (never carried through): it was clearly an attempt on her part to conclude the extensive cycle of operations begun by her distant ancestor Giovanni di Bicci three centuries earlier, in the service of the famous basilica and the public magnificence of the family” (Cristina Acidini).

The show ends with the fifth section, Death, which took place on 18 February 1743, where period engravings and publications illustrate the ceremonies connected with the event. Also displayed in this section are the three-dimensional cast of the head of the Electress, the medals and the other objects found in her tomb. 


Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali
Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Toscana
Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico
e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze
Museo delle Cappelle Medicee
Firenze Musei


Monica Bietti

Curated by

Monica Bietti




Giulia Coco

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