Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua bigraphy, stories - Duke of Mantua and Montferrat (1587-1612)

Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua : biography

21 September 1562 - 9 February 1612

Vincenzo Gonzaga (21 September 1562 – 9 February 1612) was ruler of the Duchy of Mantua and the Duchy of Montferrat from 1587 to 1612.



Vincenzo married Margherita Farnese in 1581; their marriage was childless and they divorced. On 29 April 1584 he married his first cousin Eleonora de' Medici, the daughter of Francesco I de' Medici and Joanna of Austria.

Vincenzo and Eleonora's marriage produced five children. They were:

  • Francesco (7 May 1586 – 22 December 1612), who ruled as Francesco IV Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and Duke of Montferrat between 9 February and 22 December 1612.
  • Ferdinando (26 April 1587 – 29 October 1626), who ruled as Ferdinando I Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and Duke of Montferrat from 1612 until his death.
  • Guglielmo Domenico (1589–1591), died young
  • Margherita Gonzaga (2 October 1591 – 7 February 1632), wife of Henry II, Duke of Lorraine
  • Vincenzo (7 January 1594 – 25 December 1627), ruled as Vincenzo II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and Marquess of Montferrat from 1626 until his death.
  • Eleonora Gonzaga (23 September 1598 – 27 June 1655), second wife of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor


He was a son of Guglielmo X Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and Archduchess Eleanor of Austria. His maternal grandparents were Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary.

Vincenzo was a major patron of the arts and sciences, and turned Mantua into a vibrant cultural center. Vincenzo employed the composer Claudio Monteverdi and the painter Peter Paul Rubens. In 1590 Monteverdi became a viol-player and cantor in the music chapel of Vincenzo; in 1602 Vincenzo appointed him master of music on the death of Benedetto Pallavicino. Vincenzo was also a friend of the poet Torquato Tasso. A small book published in Verona in 1589 describes how a comic actor named Valerini in the service of Vincenzo imagines an ideal gallery of art, in which statues of the most important art collectors are featured rather than the work of the artists themselves. Vincenzo was described as a colossus who would dominate the entire ideal gallery, called the Celestial Gallery of Minerva.

The astronomer Giovanni Antonio Magini also served as tutor to Vincenzo's sons, Francesco and Ferdinando.

Magini's life’s work was the preparation of the Atlante geografico d'Italia (Geographic Atlas of Italy), printed posthumously by Magini’s son in 1620. This was intended to include maps of each Italian region with exact nomenclature and historical notes. A major project, its production (begun in 1594) proved. Vincenzo, to whom the atlas is dedicated, assisted him with this project and allow for maps of the various states of Italy to be brought to Magini.

During the winter of 1603–1604, Galileo visited the Mantuan court in an effort to obtain a position there, and was offered a salary, but could not agree on the terms with Vincenzo, who instead presented Galileo with a gold chain and two silver dishes.

Vincenzo's spendthrift habits are considered to have accelerated Mantua's economic and cultural decline.

Vincenzo was rumored to have been impotent and he is said to have sent a secret expedition to the New World in order to obtain a legendary aphrodisiac.

On 20 July 1588, Emperor Rudolf II granted Vincenzo the right to an escutcheon of Austria, surmounted by an archducal coronet. Vincenzo created the Order of the Redemptor (or of the Most Precious Blood), approved by Pope Paul V, on 25 May 1608.


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