It was his successor Lorenzo de Medici who, said the Contessa, "founded a school of sculpture attended by Michelangelo and established Florence as the capital of art and sculpture." Lorenzo (1449-1492) revelled in collecting antique marble sculpture, often coming back with major pieces from visits to Rome. By thus keeping them safe in the Uffiizi Gallery in Florence (now one of the world's greatest art museums), the "Medici saved many sculptures from destruction."
But Dr. Hall pointed out that Lorenzo's "real importance was as an arbiter of taste, not in terms of his own patronage." Image was everything, and it was the artist Giorgio Vasari (1511-1570) who re-wrote history through his art. "Cosimo would have been horrified at the image of self-importance that Vasari gave him," said Hall. The same treatment was given to Lorenzo. "He was shown by Vasari surrounded by philosophers and writers. Everyone eagerly signed on to Vasari's view."
In the following century it was Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) who shone as the brightest member of the family, becoming Queen of France in 1547. Thanks to her, said Contessa Rimbotti, "Florentine elegance spread all over Europe. Everyone was amazed by her elegance." It was at this time that intelligence, culture and taste became the Medici hallmark.
The last ruling member of the family was Anna Maria de Medici (1667-1743), who bequested the family's vast art collection to the Tuscan state. Contessa Rimbotti proudly remarked that somone in the early years of the 18th century would think of the future welfare of her town and people. By stipulatiing that none of the treasures could be removed from Florence, the city today boasts a collection of wonderful art visited by millions of people every year.
Last year alone, said Rimbotti, the city hosted four major art exhibits including 45 Roman busts that had been kept in storage for many years at the Uffizi gallery, and 75% of the output of the famous artist Bronzino (1503-1572), a collection never before assembled.
Convinced that we must do our utmost to make sure these treasures are there for the future, Rimbotti said that "we are preserving our own roof- the roof of our civilization. We must all become active in the preservation of art."
Contessa Rimbotti is president of the Friends of the Uffizi Gallery here in the United States, and it was this group who hosted her presentation. Some of the treasures of the Uffizi are currently on display at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art- see the article on this page "Offering of the Angels."