Florence, Palazzo Pitti, June 24th, 1737.
Gian Gastone, the last Grand Duke of the Medici Dynasty, lies on his deathbed. His illness has forced him to move from his royal apartments to the summer apartment at the ground floor of Palazzo Pitti; his declining health prevents him from being able to climb stairs, and he refuses to have his apartment rooms cleaned. The Grand Duke’s servant and lover, Giuliano Dami, has already abandoned him, as well as his other 300 hundred young assistants that had also been his paid lovers. He remains alone, and isolated. His anger at his sister for her role in arranging his catastrophic marriage to Anna Maria Franziska di Saxe-Lauenburg, that ultimately left him with no heir, has caused him to bar her from his room. “Sic transit gloria mundi” (“Thus passes the glory of the world”), he seems to say to himself, conscious of the fact that with his death, the Medici Dynasty would end.
Despite her fragile rapport with her brother, Anna Maria Luisa seeks out the Grand Duke, worried for his health. After the death of her husband, Johann Willhelm II, she had returned to Florence from Düsseldorf. Her brother’s unrelenting blame for the disastrous marriage she architected alongside their father, Cosimo III, caused her to remain excluded from the Florentine court for twenty years. Now, Anna Maria Luisa manages to sneak into her brother’s room through a secret passageway to brave a difficult, yet necessary, encounter. She is greeted with the Grand Duke’s traditional Tuscan sense of humor and sarcasm, as he insults her mercilessly and viciously demands that she leave. Despite Gian Gastone’s hostile remarks, Anna Maria Luisa manages to reason with him; he eventually agrees to have his room cleaned, and acknowledges the crucial need to discuss the family affairs in light of the impending end of the Medici Dynasty.
Through this encounter, the siblings rediscover their bond and realize the importance of securing the future of the Medici family patrimony. The siblings recount the history of the Medici family and its cultural, artistic, scientific, and spiritual contributions to society. The story of the Medici is rich in its complexity. Many members of the Medici family have played a vital role in shaping the illustrious dynasty; including Lorenzo the Magnificent, Savonarola and his political-religious dictatorship, the Medici popes, Caterina de’ Medici and the French Monarchy, and Cosimo II. Even other figures outside of the family, such as Galileo Galilei, helped alter the Medici dynasty. They ultimately would affect the history of Florence and Italy for centuries to come.
Although Gian Gastone and Anna Maria Luisa have differing views, they end up uniting as family together to birth the idea of a contract that will save their patrimony. Two weeks after this encounter, the Grand Duke dies, and Anna Maria Luisa must begin facilitating the transfer of the Medici patrimony in its entirety to the Lorena family. She signed the Family Pact on October 31st, 1737, leaving “galleries, paintings, statues, libraries, jewelry, and other precious items such as sacred relics and reliquaries and other objects from the Chapel of the Medici Palace” to the Lorena family. However, this transfer of centuries of artistic patrimony occurs only “under the condition expressed that it would serve as an ornament of the State, to be used by the public and to attract foreign visitors, but never to be transported or removed from the Capital, and the Grand Duke’s State.”
With the Family Pact, Anna Maria Luisa ensures that no work of art would be lost, destroyed, traded, or forgotten. She thereby distinguishes Florence from its fellow Italian states such as Ferrara, Urbino, Mantova, and Parma, whose artistic and cultural treasures had been ruthlessly robbed after the dynasties that had ruled over them ended. The plethora of artistic patrimony that still remains in Florence, thanks to the clever Family Pact, continues to attract visitors from all over the world which has contributed to the development of modern tourism. This may be linked to the encounter between Anna Maria Luisa and her brother Gian Gastone on June 24th, 1737; which may have sparked the idea for the Family Pact that preserved the history of Florence.