Florence, 1541 – Unknown, 1594 Lucrezia was born in Florence from a foreign noble family who had come to Tuscany to enter the Medici’s court: her father was Alfonso Quistelli della Mirandola, a judge, and Giulia Santi, daughter from a long line of humanists and authors. Vasari mentions her as “accomplished in both painting and […]
Florence, 1541 – Unknown, 1594
Lucrezia was born in Florence from a foreign noble family who had come to Tuscany to enter the Medici’s court: her father was Alfonso Quistelli della Mirandola, a judge, and Giulia Santi, daughter from a long line of humanists and authors. Vasari mentions her as “accomplished in both painting and drawing” for having diligently attended the school of one Alessandro Allori, a disciple of the court painter Agnolo Bronzino.
This connection between Lucrezia and the artistic circle at the Medici court was probably facilitated by her father’s role as a literary patron: Bendetto Varchi, who will dedicate a sonnet to her marriage with Count Clemente Pietra in 1557, possibly was the one to introduce her to Alessandro Allori.
Lucrezia started taking lessons around 1555, aged 14, three years before her marriage, and it’s generally assumed she had access to sketches by Sofonisba Anguissola, which were very popular at the Florence court back in the day. The idea of being a woman painter must have been far from remote. Moreover, her husband was extremely progressive in his views: he had funded the publication of The Nobility of Women by Ludovico Domenichi in 1549, and was a great supporter of intellectual qualities in women, firmly opposing more traditional views that thought a woman could only be accomplished through the application to crafts such as embroidery.
With such premises, their marriage was a happy one: they soon moved to Palace Pandolfini, ideated and designed by Raffaello, and would proceed to have a grand total of eight children.
Their happiness was not to last.
As a decorated war veteran and the trusted man to Francesco I de’ Medici, Count Clemente was the target of court intrigue: in 1574, his rival Francesco Somma stabbed him with a poisoned blade, and the wound proved to be fatal after an agony of three days.
The poison was a refined mixture, not immediately recognised, and the killer tried to claim he acted in self-defence, so Lucrezia undertook an investigation, aided by the Grand Duke himself and by the court physicians. By analysing the strange coagulation of the blood around the wound, Lucrezia could finally prove that the murder of her husband had been premeditated. Through Giovanna d’Asburgo’s intervention, Cardinal Borromeo eventually dissuaded her from pursuing justice, and now I need a novel about this.
The only work we can attribute to her without any doubt is a marriage of Saint Catherine, commissioned and proudly displayed by her son Alfonso. The work was recently restored to its former glory.