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Bronzino in Pisa

November 10, 2010

So I’ve got my agenda set for the day – I’m going to attempt the daring experiment of writing fiction in the afternoon, when my brain is usually set at “no so much.”  If it fails, well, I’ll get it done tomorrow morning dark and early.

I have all the ingredients I need to set Bronzino on a boat down the Arno with Battista del Tasso, and enough information on the general characteristics of Cosimo and Eleanor to introduce them.  I’ve read Christopher Hibbert’s House of Medici through the death of Cosimo, which has given me the grounding I needed in Medici and Florentine history (I’d finish it through the later centuries but there’s too much else to read now that applies directly to the book).  I’ve discovered why the Medici are in Pisa in December 1550, or at least why Lorenzo the Magnificent went there, which is probably the same reason:

He had developed the port of Pisa, bought land outside the city and a riverside house within the walls where he often took his family to stay, particularly in the colder winter months when the climate there was relatively mild and the wooded Appenines afforded shelter from the bitter east wind that, now unimpeded, blows down from from the Romagna.

Also, it turns out Cosimo was a naval enthusiast, and fortuitously for me he had just launched Florence’s first two galleys in 1550.  So I can have him discuss naval plans with Bronzino, and Cosimo can bemoan the fact that he can’t find a painter who “does ships.” (Honestly, I can’t think of one – can anyone out there?  So many land battles at that time, so dramatically portrayed, but I can’t think of a naval battle similarly executed.)  Cosimo’s personality, according to Hibbert, was quite changeable – one moment familiar and friendly and the next, when one was as familiar with him, cold and autocratic.  I’ll have Bronzino be well aware that the familiarity is a one-way street – as he’d have to be to have survived as a favorite for so long.  Cosimo was selected as Duke during a crisis in Florence, and was assumed to be “slow-witted” and easily manageable, neither of which turned out to be the case.  Given that there are so many “lost” paintings in history, I’m thinking of creating a portrait by Bronzino of Cosimo as Claudius – something totally at odds of course with the official propaganda portraits, but something Cosimo could have in his closet for his own amusement – and something likely to be destroyed on his death if not earlier.

Eleanor, it seems, was rather autocratic – the summons to Bronzino to come “at once” is in line with records of her servants’ urgent requests to have certain foods or bolts of cloth sent “instantly” or “without delay.”  So there are toes there around which one must also tread lightly.

Luca Martini is a different matter – there’s a character who needs more research, but I can always have Bronzino “drop his stuff off” so to speak at Martini’s residence and dash off to obey the Ducal Summons, then get Martini in later in the chapter.

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