Maria Salviati portrait by Pontormo, c. 1543. Oil on panel; 87 x 71 cm. Florence, Uffizi Gallery
|Spouse(s)||Giovanni dalle Bande Nere|
|Noble family||Salviati (by birth)
Medici (by marriage)
|Mother||Lucrezia di Lorenzo de' Medici|
17 July 1499|
|Died||29 December 1543
Villa di Castello
Maria Salviati (17 July 1499 – 29 December 1543) was an Italian noblewoman, the daughter of Lucrezia di Lorenzo de' Medici and Jacopo Salviati. She married Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and was the mother of Cosimo I de Medici. Her husband died 30 November 1526, leaving her a widow at the age of 27. Salviati never remarried; after her husband's death she adopted the somber garb of a novice, which is how she is remembered today as numerous late portraits show her attired in black and white.
Maria Salviati was born in Florence. She descended from two of Florence's most powerful banking families: the Salviati on her father's side, and the Medici on her mother's. Salviati's maternal grandfather was Lorenzo "il Magnifico", a well-known politician and grandson to Cosimo de' Medici the Elder.
In turn, Salviati's descendants became crowned figureheads of Europe over the succeeding generations. Her son, Cosimo I de' Medici, was crowned Duke when his cousin Alessandro was assassinated in 1537. Her grandson Francesco I de' Medici married Johanna of Austria; they were the parents of Eleonora de' Medici, who married Vincenzo I Gonzaga and was the mother of Francesco IV Gonzaga. Francesco and Johanna's other daughter was Marie de' Medici, who married Henry IV of France and was the mother of Louis XIII of France and Henrietta Maria of France. Louis was the father of Louis XIV of France, Henrietta Maria was the mother of Charles II of England and James II of England.
Bia de' Medici 
Maria set up residence at Villa di Castello in northern Florence, there she would look after her grandchildren. Her son Cosimo had an illegitimate daughter called Bia de' Medici. Maria described her granddaughter as a very happy and chatty little girl, often having long conversations with her.
Cosimo married in 1539 to Eleonora di Toledo. Gossip reports that Eleonora refused to tolerate Bia's presence in the palace after their marriage so Cosimo sent Bia off to live with Maria. Other sources say that Eleonora brought Bia up very lovingly. Bia shared a nursery with Giulia de' Medici an illegitimate daughter of Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence, the pair were close in age so they got along very well with each other. Maria knew who Bia's mother was but she would never tell Bia or anyone else the name of the woman. Both Bia and her cousin Giulia contracted a fast-moving fever, Giulia recovered from the illness but Bia didn't, Cosimo would often write to Maria asking her of Bia's condition. Bia became sicker and sicker and eventually died on March 1, 1542 aged only five years. Maria and Cosimo were said to be very sad by her loss, Maria carried on looking after Giulia.
Maria died one year after Bia on December 29, 1543. This was an awful loss for Cosimo, two very loving females had been taken from him in the space of two years.
Cosimo I de' Medici
Grand Duke of Tuscany
Francesco I de' Medici
Grand duke of Tuscany
Marie de' Medici
Queen of France
Henrietta Maria of France
Queen of England
Henrietta Anne Stuart
Duchess of Orleans
- For information on portraits of Maria Salviati see Carl Brandon Strehlke, Pontormo, Bronzino, and the Medici: The Transformation of the Renaissance Portrait in Florence (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004) cats. 30 and 46.
See also