(b Venice, July 5, 1549; d Rome, Aug 17, 1626).
Italian cardinal and patron. He was the younger brother of Guidobaldo (1545–1607), the scientist, mathematician and patron of Galileo Galilei, who wrote a treatise on perspective (1600). Francesco was educated at the della Rovere court at Urbino, where he probably studied with the poet Agostino Gallo (1499–1570) and the mathematician Federico Commandino (1509–75); certainly he developed a passion for music and for art. It is traditionally believed that he left the della Rovere court while still very young to join that of Cardinal Alessandro Sforza (1534–81) in Rome. When Sforza died Francesco entered the service of Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici, who, on his succession as Grand Duke of Tuscany, renounced his cardinalate and persuaded Pope Sixtus V to confer it on Francesco (1588).
Francesco was a man of wide culture and varied interests: he was a connoisseur of music and painting, he practised alchemy and had a great interest in science. Politically, he was always a partisan of the French, and the writers who described him as an uncultured libertine (for Dirck Amayden’s biography see Spezzaferro) were adherents of the pro-Spanish party and intended to block his election to the papacy. His collection contained about 700 paintings, ancient statuary, the ...