The Senators of Florence swearing Allegiance to Ferdinando II de’ Medici
Justus Sustermans (Antwerp 1597 - Florence 1681)
This painting is recognized as a preparatory study for the great canvas depicting the same historical and eulogistic subject carried out by Justus Suttermans in 1625 and hung the following year on the first floor of the Pitti Palace, above the door between the Room of Niches and the Room of Statues; the canvas is currently exhibited in the Niobe Room in the Gallery of the Statues and Paintings of the Uffizi. The work represents the artist's most ambitious piece, a unicum of his career as official portrait artist to the Medici court. The scene captures the moment of the oath of allegiance sworn by the Senators and other important Florentine figures to the young Ferdinando II in the Hall of the Five-hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio on March 11, 1621. The young successor to Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici, who died on 28 February 1621, is depicted below the great baldaquin throne flanked by two guards, his mother the Grand Duchess Maria Maddalena of Austria, his grandmother Cristina di Lorena and members of the Senate. As well as the historic moment, Suttermans includes an allegorical counterpart on the proscenium itself, depicting four personifications who contribute to the scenic setting: Tuscany, upon which Peace places an olive branch and, on the left, the River Arno and possibly the River Sieve. Despite its diminutive size, the canvas demonstrates Suttermans’ unique approach to portraiture in the accurate and realistic appearances of the characters, whose precise identities were provided by the historiographer Filippo Baldinucci in his writings Notizie de’ professori del disegno da Cimabue in qua… (1681-1728). Having been recognized by critics as a preparatory study for the huge canvas currently housed at the Uffizi Galleries, the painting was acquired by the Italian State on the antiques market in 1981 and was inserted into the collections of the Pitti Palace.