Feminine Light – Part 2 - My Tuscan Aria
There was little in town that did not somehow feel the power of Eleonora da Toledo."

In Renaissance Florence, women were barred from being seen in the public arenas of politics, business and the arts - not even allowed to enter a building that housed a government magistrate. There is no doubt that Eleonora's husband forcibly removed barriers for her.


But what is also true is Eleonora used her own ideas, business savvy, and art patronage to attain what was referred to as "superhuman majesty." She ruled Florence as regent during her husband's many absences. She secured the Medici dynasty with the birth of many children. She increased the Medici wealth in land, mining, new markets. She supported silkworm cultivation, beekeeping, and instead of giving her money to the Church (which she seldom attended), she gave it to the convents to support the women.

n Renaissance Florence, women were barred from being seen in the public arenas of politics, business and the arts - not even allowed to enter a building that housed a government magistrate. There is no doubt that Eleonora's husband forcibly removed barriers for her. But what is also true is Eleonora used her own ideas, business savvy, and art patronage to attain what was referred to as "superhuman majesty." She ruled Florence as regent during her husband's many absences. She secured the Medici dynasty with the birth of many children. She increased the Medici wealth in land, mining, new markets. She supported silkworm cultivation, beekeeping, and instead of giving her money to the Church (which she seldom attended), she gave it to the convents to support the women.

Eleonora's "feminine light" is most visible in her rooms at the Palazzo Vecchio - especially the public rooms where she conducted business affairs with men. When Cosimo and Eleonora married, they decided to live in the actual seat of Florentine Power and Eleonora set about designing her apartments. Her team? Giorgio Vasari and Bronzino. Her theme? Heroines. Classical heroines who would become her messengers. The message? To all those men who entered what came to be known as the Duchess' Golden Chambers, there was no question that the power of the feminine was about to be encountered. It was not a subtle message. It alarmed many. When Cosimo was consulted about his wife's choices and methods, his answer was, "It's her affair."

The wealth that Eleonora helped generate went to art patronage. The decoration of her apartments and private chapel as well as her own self portraits kept artists busy. While history has always bowed to the Medici men, in particular Lorenzo the Magnificent and Duke Cosimo for funding art projects, at least in the latter's case, it was Eleonora who brought the money to purchase the Pitti Palace where the Renaissance art collection rivals only the one at the Uffizi. (Oh, and she also funded the Boboli Gardens).

I visited the Golden Chambers last Fall. I was inspired to go because of the drawings I am in possession of which I am using to create scarves, pillows and other beautiful items. One of these images is of Eleonora's (Leonora was her Spanish name) initials in the frieze of the magnificent ceiling of what is known as the Camera Verde (the Green Room). The artist only drew a portion, like an invitation to come see more. As I walked through these rooms, there is darkness, shadow but an inner brilliance shines through the images - especially of the faces of those heroines who Eleonora put on display for her male captive audience.

Penelope is seen here unraveling the threads to ward off unwelcome suitors while she waited for her husband, Odysseus to return.

Esther, Queen of the Hebrews who saved her people by manipulating the King but also exacted terrible vengeance. (The origin of the name Esther is not Jewish, but from Ishtar, the goddess of the planet Venus - more feminine light).

The Sabine women are there too. Women who had been abducted and raped who courageously stood between two armies to stop the violence and create a peace treaty.

If you think about these three examples of female power, they are each different. Sometimes peace is what is called for despite the desire for vengeance. Other times it's using deception to create a positive outcome. And sometimes you need to blow things up.

As I wandered through these rooms, I imagined Eleonora, surrounded by her court entourage (all men), sitting at her desk, bathed in all of that golden light, ready to take on the Medici deals of the day with men who resented her, even hated her for being a foreigner and for being a woman in this place of power.

"Saving Beauty" in Silk

La Finestra means The Window: More of Florence's Golden Light in a Silky Chiffon Scarf

I announced this venture a few blogs ago. The first order of this limited edition sold out. So, thank you for the great response to what I am calling, "Saving Beauty". I will be writing more about future offerings which will include pillows, kimonos and even silk skirts.

Future designs will include those inspired by Eleonora da Toledo, Duchess of Tuscany.

If you would like to order the first edition, La Finestra, please click on the link below.  They are 50" squares and are $150.00.  Made in Canada.  Hand washable.  They are being worn, framed and used as tablecloths.  Elegant and one of a kind. 
 

Click to send Carol a message or for more information.

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