FRANCESCO I D’ESTE Portrait by Diego Rodriguez de Silva VELAZQUEZ


duca  orig_alta risoluzFrancesco I d’Este was born in Modena on 6th September 1610 to Alfonso III d’Este and Isabella of Savoy. In August 1629 he succeeded his father, who abdicated to take up the cloth and enter the order of the Capuchin monks, taking the name of Father Giovan Battista. From that day Duke Francesco I undertook to reconquer the lost lands of his ancestors, blessed as he was with ingenuity, personality and a great desire to achieve success.
In January 1631 he married Maria Farnese, by whom he had a son, Almerico, who often accompanied him on his military campaigns.
In the complicated, ever-changing political scene of the era, initially he decided to ally with Spain, then he crossed over to the rival, France, thus re-establishing the traditional alliance with the house of d’Este.
In later years he rediscovered a knightly, bellicose spirit that led him to become the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
He fell ill and died in Santhià on 14th October 1658.
In Velazquez’ portrait, the Duke wears armour draped with the red sash of the General of the Seas, an office with which Phillip IV honoured him in 1638. During his stay in Spain he was also appointed Viceroy of Catalonia and later on Knight of the Golden Toson, as portrayed by the fleece that hangs from the sash.
The portrait is believed to have been commissioned by Francesco I d’Este in Madrid in 1638, and inventoried in the ducal collection in 1663. It was sold in the early eighteenth century, probably bought by ducal secretary Rocco Lorenzetti. Through descendant Paolo Canali Lorenzetti it was sold to Duke Francesco IV d’Este and then donated to the Fine Arts Academy of Modena.
In 1986, Aceto Balsamico del Duca made a monetary contribution to the restoration of this precious work, carried out by Mrs M.Paola Degli Esposti.

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