Uffizi, a book reveals that it was Eleonora di Toledo who wanted the Boboli Gardens

Florence, 20 July 2022 – It was Eleonora di Toledo who wanted and transformed Boboli into one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. And today more than ever she is covered as a model of female leadership thanks to the new book by Bruce Edelstein that tells the story 500 years after his birth . The art historian and professor at New York University Florence highlighted for the first time the insights of Cosimo I de ‘Medici’s wife in the administration of one of the main green lungs of Florence.


Enthroned, accompanied by her second son, in a solemn attitude and in a luxurious dress of precious brocade: the Duchess of Florence, from 1539 to 1562, known above all for the portrait of the court artist Agnolo Bronzino exhibited at the Uffizi, was the most important collaborator of her husband Cosimo I de ‘Medici. Born in Spain around 1522 and moved to Naples when her father, Pedro Alvarez of Toledo, was called to serve as viceroy of the city, Eleonora married Cosimo I de ‘Medici in 1539. It was she, as Bruce Edelstein recounts in his book ‘Eleonora di Toledo and the creation of Boboli Gardens (Edizioni Sillabe, in English), dedicated to the Florentine Duchess 500 years after her birth, the true protagonist of the purchase of the Boboli Gardens in 1550 and of hertransformation into one of the most beautiful parks in the world.

Inspiration for the largest princely gardens in all of Europe and one of the most spectacular examples of an open-air museum, Boboli has long been mistakenly considered to have been accidentally acquired by the Medici family following the annexation of Palazzo Pitti. Three decades of in-depth research today allow Bruce Edelstein to affirm exactly the opposite: to attract the attention of Eleonora and Cosimo, even before the palace, it was the huge green area behind, which they transformed with impressive works. The volume reports the testimonies of those who, from the sixteenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century, strongly supported the central role of Eleonora di Toledo in the acquisition and management of Boboli: and among the first were the diarist “Marucelli” in his Florentine Chronicle , the poet Benedetto Varchi, the archaeologist Francesco Inghirami, just to name a few.

In fact, modeled to meet the needs of the Florentine Duchess, who wished to enjoy the pleasures of rural life while supporting her husband in matters of state, the garden soon became a real

 countryside within the

 walls of Florence, dedicated to food healthy, clean air and exercise. The acquisition of the Boboli Gardens is to be considered the culmination of Eleonora di Toledo’s growing interest in rural life: among her first operations there was in fact the addition of a

 hanging garden on the roof

of the former Palazzo della Signoria, a series of “ vegetable gardens”With the aim of expanding the range of foods available for the ducal table. The volume then devotes great attention to the only pictorial testimony of the Medici gardens in those years: the famous series of seventeen lunettes painted between 1599 and 1608 attributed to the Flemish artist Giusto Utens, who in addition to the architectures of the villas offers a precious visual documentation of the greenery that surrounded them and other elements that would otherwise have been forgotten.

As a whole, the text testifies and reconstructs the genesis of Boboli, which thanks to the intuitions of Eleonora di Toledo distinguishes itself from the previous “green” attempts of the Florentine city, anticipating modern trends and ecological reforms. “In Bronzino’s portrait of Eleonora da Toledo at the Uffizi – explains Eike Schmidt , director of the Uffizi Galleries – the Duchess was represented in front of the landscape around Pisa, the land she had helped to develop from an agricultural point of view. In Bruce Edelstein’s book it emerges how with the same entrepreneurial spirit it managed to make Boboli not only a place of delight, but also a small agricultural center with areas dedicated to horticulture and other crops, for the needs of the court.. In the pages of the volume we discover Boboli, an example later

followed in gardens all over the world

 in all its aspects: here the enchantment of caves, fountains, sculptures and hedges is unexpectedly intertwined with a practical vision, which looked at the needs of the table and family health. A true matriarch, this exceptional woman, a foreigner who has descended into Florentine life, has left the city and humanity a masterpiece of ecological culture ”.

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