Portrait of Alessandro de' Medici

Telling the story of Alessandro de’ Medici

Culture News

Daphne Di Cinto’s period drama Il Moro focuses on the son of a servant who became the Duke of Florence. Alessandro de’ Medici became the first black head of state in modern western Europe.

When Lorenzo de’Medici died, Florence entered a period of political instability spanning decades. Following the alliance of Pope Clement VII de’ Medici and Charles V, the opponents of the Medici were defeated by the imperial troops that besieged the city.

Alessandro de’ Medici, known as “The Moor”, due to his dark complexion, was the natural son of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, brother to the Pope, and a servant of mixed race.

Alessandro’s reign over the Tuscan city was effectively a short one – 6 years – because on the night of the 6th and 7th of January 1537 he was assassinated by his cousin Lorenzino. When he died, the senior branch of the family died with him, but the power of the Medici family would soon be assured by the rise of the branch known as “Popolano”, with Cosimo I.

Di Cinto brings his story back to life

Five-hundred years on, Daphne Di Cinto, the African-Italian actor, writer and director, is seeking to bring his story back to life. The trailer for her debut short film, Il Moro, has been released. The period drama, set during Italy’s Renaissance, is based on the life of Alessandro de’ Medici. He was the first black head of state in modern western Europe.

“I discovered his story by chance, as I was conducting research for another project,” Di Cinto said. “I’ll be honest, I found out about him in one of those articles titled Ten people in history you didn’t know were black. And I was stunned. I had never learned about his background and people didn’t seem to be familiar with it either. I strongly felt that his story deserved attention as much as other Afropeans deserve representation in our history.

“[I find it] so funny that after fictionally giving birth to the most well known black duke around, I would in a way mother this other black duke through telling his story,” Di Cinto told The Guardian.

Discrimination for one reason or another

“Alessandro’s mother was enslaved, and according to the law at the time, you inherited your mother’s condition,” says Di Cinto. The director is herself mixed race, born to a Seychellois mother and a white Italian father.

“His life began as an upward climb. People wouldn’t have much consideration for him, which is a striking parallelism to the experience of today’s Afropeans. Today, it’s related to skin colour, back then it was about his ‘low birth’ – it still has the same name: discrimination. In some ways, I see myself in his story. Growing up, having to justify my being Italian was the norm. You will hear similar stories by my fellow Afro-Italians, many of whom aren’t even granted citizenship despite having been born and raised in Italy.”

The short, 20-minute film is currently on the film festival circuit. It stars Alberto Boubakar Malanchino as Alessandro de’ Medici, Paolo Sassanelli as Pope Clement, Balkissa Maiga as Alessandro’s mother and Andrea Melis as Ippolito de’ Medici. The clip is partly funded by a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

A portrait of Alessandro de’ Medici hangs in the Uffizi.

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