Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Biography - Joanna of Austria 1547–1578 married Francesco I de'Medici & suffered a sad life & death

1562-65  Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) attributed to Giuseppe Archimboldo.

Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) was born an Archduchess of Austria as the youngest daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor & Anna of Bohemia & Hungary. One of her daughters was Marie de Medici, 2nd wife of King Henry IV of France. Joanna was born in Prague as the youngest of 15 children. She never knew her mother who died 2 days after Joanna's birth.

1565 Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) by Francesco Terzio

Her arranged marriage to Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1541-1587), took place in 1565 in Florence, when she was just turning 18. Joanna was homesick & unhappy in Tuscany. Ignored by her husband, & despised by the Florentines for her Austrian heritage, she never felt at home in Florence.

Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1541-1587)

While her husband was not charming & was constantly unfaithful, her father-in-law, Cosimo I de' Medici, was reasonably kind to Joanna. He had the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio specially decorated for her; the lunettes were painted with murals of Austrian towns by pupils of Vasari. Her father-in-law had Verrocchio's Putto with Dolphin fountain was brought to Florence from the Careggi villa, where it had been set up in the garden by Lorenzo de' Medici.

1570 Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) Giovanna d’Austria by Alessandro Allori

Joanna's job was not to be happy, it was to produce a male heir for a family she did not know in a country she did not like. Between 1566 & 1575, she gave birth to 6 daughters, of whom only 3 survived infancy. Daughters were just not acceptable.  The absence of a male heir to continue the dynasty was the cause of constant conflict with her husband, who preferred the company & love of his mistress Bianca Capello, who reportedly gave birth a son, Antonio, in 1576.

Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) Follower of Anthonis Mor van Dashorst

Finally, in 1577, Joanna gave birth to the long-awaited heir, baptized Filippo in honour of the King Philip II of Spain, Joanna's 1st cousin. The birth was celebrated with great joy by all the court, because it secured the succession of the Grand Duchy for another generation & eliminated  Bianca Capello's hopes to have her "son" Antonio as heir of Tuscany.

Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) after Bizzelli

In April of 1578, Joanna, nearly ready to give birth to her 8th child, fell down the stairs in the Grand Ducal Palace in Florence. Some hours later, she gave birth to a premature son, who died immediately. Joanna herself died the next day. Francesco subsequently married his mistress, Bianca Cappello.

Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) Juana de Austria by Giovanni Bizzelli

The gossip which swirled around this accident for years hinted that her husband & his mistress of murdered Joanna, so that they could be married. However, modern medical investigation of her remains confirm the official reports of her death as caused by the birth (the child presented arm first, & Johanna suffered a ruptured uterus). The examination also showed that Johanna suffered from scoliosis, her spine & pelvis were severely deformed. Doctors say that from the condition of her pelvis, her previous births had been difficult, & that it is remarkable that she had survived them.

Joanna of Austria (1547–1578)

Her short, unhappy life had been dedicated to producing male children for a royal family she did not know or like; but only 2 of Johanna's daughters, Eleonora & Marie lived to adulthood, the rest dying in childhood.

1586 Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) posthumous portrait with her son Filippo (1577-1582) by Giovanni Bizzelli

1621 Joanna of Austria (1547–1578) Attributed to Peter Paul Rubens (after her death)