The artistic heritage now preserved at Villa La Quiete is the result of a centuries-old stratification that has led to the formation of a very diverse and diversified core of works, by type and chronology.
In the various rooms of the large building, both those visible today and those still to be recovered for public use, paintings, sculptures, jewellery, and textiles are preserved, often in their original location, not only originating from the Montalve's own devotion, and therefore commissioned directly by them, but also by the Medici grand-duchesses, who always protected and favored the convent. Other objects and furnishings came to the congregation through donations and legacies.
From San Jacopo di Ripoli to La Quiete
In 1886, with the closing of the boarding school in Via della Scala, the Ancille of San Jacopo di Ripoli reunited with their sisters at Villa La Quiete. This reunification had notable consequences on the artistic heritage of the Villa since it was then that many works of art arrived from the three complexes that the Florentine congregation had inhabited in time: the convent of Via dell'Amore, and those of Sant'Agata and San Jacopo.
From the latter in particular comes the oldest and most important works of art of the Villa, i.e. the great sixteenth-century altarpieces of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (for example the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine and Saints, c. 1508), by Michele Tosini (Saint Mary Magdalene and a Dominican nun, a panel painting with the wooden Crucifix by Baccio da Montelupo at the center), and by Sandro Botticelli.
The Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1500), attributable to this artist and his workshop, did, in fact, belong to the Franciscan convent of Montevarchi, but was delivered to the Montalve in Via della Scala, at the time of the French occupation of Florence, in replacement of the altarpiece of the same subject that Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio had painted for the monastery church, requisitioned by the Napoleonic emissaries to be sent to the Louvre. Also part of the church of Ripoli were the lunettes by Giovanni and Marco della Robbia (the Noli me tangere and the Incredulity of Saint Thomas), now on display in the so-called Sala delle Robbiane of the Villa (once a reception hall for the students). These glazed lunettes, inserted in elegant stone altars, surmounted the altarpieces that once were inside the church.
Sandro Botticelli and workshop, Coronation of the Virgin and Saints, La Quiete
The Grand Duchesses at La Quiete
When referring to the links between the grand duchesses and the Ladies of Montalve, these consisted in important initiatives in favour of the convent, the result of the harmonious encounter between the profound religiosity of the Medici women and that of the congregation. After all, the Villa, before becoming home to Eleonora and her lady companions, had been bought by Cristina of Lorraine, widow of Ferdinand I de' Medici, who had made it her retreat site. Cristina had the talented Tuscan painter Giovanni da San Giovanni paint, in a gallery on the first floor, a fresco with the allegory of the Quiet that pacifies the Winds which, from then on (1632) gave the name to the Villa. The interest bestowed by the reigning family continued with the pious Vittoria della Rovere, wife of Ferdinand II de' Medici, who, in addition to adorning the Villa with paintings from the family collections, issued in 1679 a Motu Proprio with which she placed under her protection and that of the "Most Serene House and above all of the Most Serene Grand Duchesses who will succeed us", the congregation of the Minime Ancille of the Holy Trinity, the name adopted by the Montalve group who lived at Villa La Quiete.
It was mainly due to Vittoria's interest that the convent was provided, between 1686 and 1688, with a spacious church, now part of the visiting itinerary, where the funeral memorial dedicated to the Grand Duchess was carried out. The monument features in the centre of it, a marble bust depicting Vittoria, sculpted, on commission from Cosimo III de' Medici, by the most important grand-ducal sculptor of the late Baroque period, namely Giovan Battista Foggini. In the same church, in 1689 the body of Eleonora Ramirez di Montalvo was transferred. She had died in 1659 but lacking a chapel at La Quiete, she was buried in the Florentine convent of the congregation. The monument for Eleonora was made at the time of transporting her body to the new church, while the painted terracotta bust that was embedded in it must have been shaped by an unknown Florentine sculptor shortly after her death.
However, it was Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, the Electress of the Palatinate and last of her family who, more than all her antecedents, determined the appearance that La Quiete still preserves in part today. Returning to Florence from Düsseldorf in 1716, after being widowed, the princess promoted substantial expansion work in the Villa she had elected, following the example of her beloved grandmother Vittoria, to her retreat for several months of the year. The initiative of the Electress brought, therefore, the enlargement of La Quiete and above all the creation of the large garden (between 1724 and 1727) which still characterizes it and which gave this place the appearance and grandeur of a real Medici villa.
In addition, Anna Maria Luisa commissioned numerous paintings of sacred subjects for the choirs of the church and had an apartment set up facing the garden, consisting of an anteroom and a room on the first floor and two rooms on the ground floor. In 1726, these two environments were completely frescoed by Benedetto Fortini and Filippo Giarré with illusionistic representations that simulated the opening on real or imagined landscapes. Thus if in the first room the representations of three important Medici villas appear, Pratolino, Poggio a Caiano and Poggio Imperiale, to underline the new bond of La Quiete with other important Medici residences, in the second the perspective whims enriched by plants, animals and heraldic symbols underline the connection of these rooms with the garden and with the naturalistic decoration so loved by the Medicis.
With the death of the Electress in 1743, the most artistically significant period of Villa La Quiete ended, although it still partly preserves the aspect that the last representative of the Florentine dynasty wished to give to the Villa.