Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici: the last Medici descendant who saved Florence’s artistic heritage

The preservation of Florence’s artistic and cultural heritage is due to one woman: Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, known as Electrice Palatina.

Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici was the last of the Medici. With her the Medici family ended without direct heirs and the government passed into the hands of the Habsburg Lorraine. However, the granting of the state to foreigners, the Lorraine, had caused Anna Maria Luisa to protect her state by making a gift to Florence and all of Tuscany: the Family Pact, which she wanted and signed in Vienna in October 1737 where in Article 3 she, as the legitimate heir of all the Medici patrimony, made a gift of it to Tuscany.

The entire Medici patrimony thanks to the Pact went “to the ornament of the State, for the utility of the public and to attract the curiosity of foreigners.” It was a gesture of great love for Florence and Tuscany by the last heir of one of the most prestigious families that had administered the region for more than 300 years, first with the government of the city and then with the crown of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Thanks to the Pact, it is still possible today to see in Florence the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace Gallery, all the collections of gems and cameos, the furniture of the Medici residences, and the books of the Palatine and Medici libraries in San Lorenzo, the collection of Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities, Italian and foreign majolica, works by Donatello, Verrocchio and other famous artists, the New Sacristy with works by Michelangelo, vases including those by Cellini, church objects and several tapestries.

Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici married Johann Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg, a powerful man, an Elector Palatine, the highest noble rank in Germany, brother of the Empress and heir to many estates. When she was widowed, from Germany she returned to her Florence. The Electress Palatine had, like almost all the Medici, a great love for the art market and was a refined collector. On Feb. 18, 1743, a tumor led to her death, and Sir Horace Mann, a prominent British diplomat, wrote “All our joy is over in Florence the carnival has been ruined; the Electress died an hour ago, and we must give up all good plans for masquerades.” Florence is one of the most beautiful and visited cities in the world thanks in part to the Electress Palatine and the Family Pact she strongly desired.

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