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Francesco di Marco Datini

The vicissitudes of life and business activity of Francesco di Marco Datini are connected closely to economic and social history of the city of Prato.
His parents died during the plague when he was a child. He left his native city in young age to establish his fortune in Avignon, where, after an apprenticeship with Florentine companies, he began to work as a merchant, trading in arms and metallic materials, but also spices, jewels, woolen, silk and fustian, boxes and paintings.

At the age of 40, he married Margherita Bandini in Avignon, a sixteen year old Florentine. Her family was banished from Florence after the conviction for treason of his father, the reason why they moved to the French city. Twenty years later, having no children by his own marriage, they grew up Ginevra, born from a story of Francesco and a slave, loving her as a legitimate daughter. 
Once back in Prato he extends his trade affairs to the main commercial routes, he founded a new company based in Pisa and another in Florence, mainly for the marketing of wool in Menorca, Catalonia, Provence, the textiles produced in Florence and Prato, of leather and metal.

Its range is expanding further with the opening of other companies in Genoa and later in Catalonia (with offices in Barcelona, Valencia and Mallorca).
He imports wool, leather, useful substances for the dyeing of wool (as grain), as well as slaves and ceramics produced by Arabian craftsmen in Valencia from places, which are also focal points for reaching the markets of the North Europe, with the highly prized English wool and Flemish cloth.
The activity of Datini, however, is not limited only to commerce. In 1348 he founded in Prato a company for the industrial manufacture of woolen cloth, which will be supported by the “Compagnia della Tinta” in 1395, and three years later he founded a bank in Florence: all these activities will stop in 1400 when his collaborators died in the Black Death plague. 

The Datini Palace, built near the ancient door Fuia that is the principal place of his affairs, offers a sumptuous home to many illustrious figures, including the lord of Mantua, Francesco Gonzaga and Louis II of Anjou, King of Sicily , giving the merchant the privilege of adding to his crest the golden lily of France.
He was in conflict, as all the merchants of the time, between the proud claim of the social utility of his richness and the mistrust of religious morality regarding the merchant activities and banking in particular. He is a typical representative of the mentality and culture of the Tuscan merchants of the time.
In 1399 he took part in the pilgrimage of the Whites, a movement whose adherents moves barefoot and dressed in white linen from land to land, praying and trying to reconcile the opposing factions.
Among the many religious institutions to which he offers his support, he keeps a particularly close relationship with the Franciscan friars, shouldering the costs of restoration and interior decoration of the church.

Died without male heirs, Datini leaves 1000 golden florins to realize in Florence a building where can be accommodated "foundlings": the children whose families were not able to grew them up and which were abandoned to public pity. That building is the first nucleus of today's Ospedale degli Innocenti.

Most part of his heritage (100.000 golden florins) is destined to the “Ceppo de’ poveri di Francesco“ (which takes its name from the traditional hollow log in which the faithful laid their alms to be distributed to the poor, placed in churches ), to give assistance to the poor of the city. This institution will support the city with its enormous capital for centuries.
After death, to pay him homage, the external walls of the palace were decorated with scenes from his life. His image is preserved in the marble slab placed over the grave in San Francesco and in the portraits executed in the following centuries with celebratory, he is dedicated to the late nineteenth century marble statue, erected in the town square.

Lastra tombale di Francesco Datini
Scultura di Francesco Datini in piazza del Comune a Prato

Data ultima revisione dei contenuti della pagina: luned 16 marzo 2020

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