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Katelynn Nguyen

Period 1

Title: Henri IV Receives the Portrait of Marie de Medici


Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
Date: 1621–1625 C.E.
Period/Culture: Baroque
Original Location: France
Scale/Size: 394 x 295 cm
Patron: Marie de Medici
Materials: Oil paint
Technique: Oil on canvas

1. Subject Matter/Content: Hymen and Amor (Cupid) present portrait to King Henry IV.
Jupiter and Juno, king and queen of the Olympians, hover above and approve of the
match as they hold hands as a gesture of marital union. Personification of France urges
Henry to turn away from battle and pay attention to domestic concerns = just as important
to the monarchy as military exploits.
2. Symbolism: Marie and cherub are the only 2 looking out at the viewer: establishes the
central authority and future importance of Marie and her progeny for France. Minerva,
goddess of peace and war, whispers words of wisdom into the king’s ear. In doing so the
goddess of wisdom approves of whom the king has chosen and agrees that she indeed is
right for the kingdom. The goddess whispers to his right ear and advises him upon his
bride. Gods of both marriage and love to are part of artwork showing that their love and
marriage are both valid and burning strong.
3. Contextual Issues: Marie de Medici, daughter of Grand Duke of Tuscany, gazes out at
Henry IV, king of France. Marie de Medici commissioned 24 paintings by Peter Paul
Rubens to be hung in her newly built Luxembourg Palace in 1622. The commission of
the biographical cycle marked her reconciliation with her son Louis XIII (after she was
exiled from France). It vindicated her reign as the queen of France. Peace and prosperity
through devotion to husband and country, wisdom and strategic marriage alliances. This
painting concludes the April 1600 marriage negotiations as ordained by the gods,
counseled by France and inspired by her beauty. Marie died in exile in 1631; her truce
with her son Louis XIII was short-lived.
4. Formal Qualities: Strong vertical axis running through the work from Juno/Hera (top)
through Marie de Medici shows the maternal, fertile connection between ideal wives and
mothers, as Rubens depicted it.
5. Intended Audience: Intended for Marie de Medici to glorify her. Also intended for
anyone who comes into her palace.
6. Function(s): To serve as propaganda, glorifying and justifying the life and
accomplishments of Marie de Medici, Queen and Regent of France. To depict Marie de
Medici's life in 24 defining paintings. To compare Marie de Medici's right to rule,
wisdom, and beauty to the ancient mythological gods.
7. Meaning: Glorification of Marie de Medici after she was exiled the first time in order for
her audience to see what she has done during her reign.
8. Related Theme(s): Self-portrait, Royalty
9. Related Work(s): Las Meninas (Royalty)