(b. 1503, Firenze, d. 1572, Firenze)

Eleonora di Toledo with her son Giovanni de' Medici

Oil on wood, 115 x 96 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Daughter of viceroy of Naples Don Pedro di Toledo, Eleonora married Cosimo I de' Medici in 1539 and died in 1562. In this picture, datable around 1545, she is portrayed with one of their eight sons, the young John, born in 1543 and died, as his mother of malaria, in 1562. The intense blue of the background and the stateliness of the figure enhance the preciousness of Eleonora's dress (for long time, erroneously believed her sepulture cloth), while her aristocratic beauty betrays a sense of melancholy.

It was painted towards 1545, at the happiest moment of Bronzino's activity as a portrait painter. The diligent and frankly enjoyed description of the details of the costume are transfigured, through the geometrical simplification and the calm fixity of the light, into a vision of an almost ecstatic detachment.

In this work, which is his most important Medici portrait and is technically a tour de force, the elaborate brocaded gown seems as much the subject of the portrait as Eleonora herself. Archeological work in the tomb of Eleonora has revealed fragments of the dress worn in this portrait.