Marie De Medici Cycle By Peter Paul Rubens



2015-06-26 10:38:42

The Marie De Medici Cycle is a series of 24 paintings by the Flemish Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens.


Rubens was commissioned to work on the series in the autumn of 1621 by Marie de Medici, wife of then King of France Henry IV. They were part of a massive project to decorate the Luxemburg Palace in Paris. The pictures are essentially a presentation of Marie’s melodramatic life with a whooping 21 of them entirely about her. Almost all the paintings that make up this collection contain a number of mythical characters either from Greek or Roman sources.

The Destiny of Marie de Medici confers the birth and life of the queen some sort of divine contemplation. A total of five celestial figures are annexed from Greek mythology to stress the point of Marie’s divinely guided destiny. Zeus and his wife Themis are painted above the thread supervisory Fates; Clotho, Lachesis and Attropos. Attropo’s traditional role of cutting the thread is dropped by the conspicuous omission of her tool of trade-the scissors.

The cycle ends with a picture labeled The Triumph of Truth. This is an attempt to potray the political haggling between Marie and her son Louis XIII in appealing light. The King presents a laurel wreath to his mother that’s has two joined hands above them. Under the Royal pair, Time is seen uncovering Truth which is a deliberate allusion to the idea that the power struggles were nothing more than untruthful accounts made by detractors.


The overriding artistic technique deployed by Rubens in this work is the incorporation of allegorical and mythological figures. In all 24 paintings, only The Coronation in Saint-Denis can boast the lack of a mythological debt burden. In The Debarkation at Marseilles the queen is shown being welcomed by a personified France. In contrast with much of the series, this particular painting is among the few with zero allegorical presence. In the Death of Henri IV and The Proclamation of the Regency Ruben combines two related events in one picture.


Throughout the cycle, a keen observer can detect exaggeration of the real Marie. In the picture heralding the Queen’s acceptance of the Regency after her husband’s tragic death, the subjects are depicted in a manner to suggest that they were begging her to accept it. Nonetheless, the cycle succeeds in capturing the labyrinth of conflicting forces that influenced the court where French power politics played out.

By sprinkling an ample amount of passivity in every event that the queen takes part in, Ruben brought out her wisdom in not threatening her son’s power aggressively in a staunchly patriarchal society.

Notable Auctions

Although details of any auction sales from this series are hard to come by, a 2002 sale is available to give a rough idea of what a piece from this cycle would fetch. A Ruben painting titled Massacre of the Innocent was reportedly sold at $64.8 million.

Appearance in Exhibitions

The 24 pictures that make up this cycle were originally hung in the Medicis Gallery in the Palais du Luxembourg. They can presently be spotted doing rounds in various exhibitions across the globe.

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