A Daughter of the Medici Expunged from her own Portrait for having an African Grandmother

Maria Salviati with Giulia de Medici, c. 1539.  Oil on canvas. 

Jacopo Carruci called Jacopo da Pontormo, Italian active Florence,  c. 1494-1556/7.  Baltimore Art Museum






The little girl is believed to be Giulia de’ Medici, daughter of Duke Alessandro de’ Medici, 1511-1537, called Il Moro for his swarthy complexion. 




1200px-Pontormo,_ritratto_di_alessandro_de'_medici,_1534-35Portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici, oil on panel, before 1535.

Pontormo (Jacopo Carucci), Italian (active Florence), 1494 – 1556/7.  Philadelphia Art Museum



Her father’s mother was an African woman. She was in direct line of descent from Lorenzo the Magnificent. 





As above



Her portrait was painted over in the 19th century so that all that was left was the portrait of the woman whose hand she is holding:  Maria Salviati, widow, at this time, of a military man, himself a de’ Medici.  They were the parents of Cosimo de’ Medici, grand duke of Tuscany.


The portrait – one of the earliest of a person of African descent in European painting according to the Baltimore Museum –  of the girl was rediscovered and restored in a 1937 cleaning.   










4 thoughts on “A Daughter of the Medici Expunged from her own Portrait for having an African Grandmother

  1. It is hard not to blow a few fuses on reading of such a dismal, vandalizing expunging. What a very beautiful child. So good that she has been restored to us.

    1. Agreed. Even if my Ethiopian mind found the date of this restoral suspicious. One year earlier, the Italians invaded Ethiopia. I hope no-one was making any kind of misplaced comment about our links. But then I calmed down and I agree with you! Sarah

  2. I don’t see anything special about white. I have at least 4 tribes mixed in my blood. My blood is coloured the same as everyone else’s. And I would love a bit of brown in my skin – which the sun provides from time to time.

    1. I am Ethiopian and I don’t think Ethiopians have ever seen anything special about white. It is not true to say that they are not conscious about the shade of skin colour because, among the Amhara, often pale was ‘better’ than dark and highborn children would be covered in the sun. But white does not stir up any Ethiopian’s blood and the extent and perniciousness of American racism came as an unfathomable and burdensome to me.

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