Construction of a Florentine Queen in Paris: the building of Marie de Médicis’s image in the Luxembourg Palace
Greer, Alexandra Lyons
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This thesis’ main goal is to answer the question: from where did Peter Paul Rubens’s Life of Marie de Medici Cycle come? Previous literature has focused on the content of the twenty-four canvases of the Medici Cycle and their meanings. However, they have not viewed the Medici Cycle as part of a bigger whole and thus part of a larger agenda that was symbolised through Marie de Medici’s construction and patronage of her own palace in Paris, the Luxembourg Palace. Originally planned to emulate the Palazzo Pitti in Florence in which Marie was raised, the Palace represents the Florentine agenda that was prevalent throughout Marie’s patronage after her first exile at the hands of her son, Louis XIII, in 1617. By viewing the Luxembourg Palace as a whole and exploring the Medici Cycle’s placement there, this thesis will show that Marie was looking back to Florence for guidance when constructing her own image as wife, widow, mother and regent. The first chapter places the Medici Cycle firmly within the Luxembourg Palace and the themes prevalent throughout the decoration there, acknowledging Marie’s dependence on Medici architectural and pictorial projects when developing her own programme of praise. The second chapter looks to how the other Medici queen of France, Catherine de Medici, portrayed herself when faced with the same obstacles as Marie, fifty years prior: motherhood, widowhood, regency, foreignness, gender and power. In this chapter it becomes evident that Marie used many of the same strategies as Catherine, yet far surpassed her in her own aggressive self-promotion, as evidenced by the nature of the Medici Cycle. Chapter three focuses on the similarities between the Medici Cycle and sixteenth and seventeenth century entries and festivals, especially those in Florence staged in celebration of dynastic marriages. The chapter answers the question of whether the Medici Cycle was in fact, finally, Marie’s triumphal entry into Paris. The final chapter looks to Marie and her image following her final exile in 1630. It highlights the importance of the Medici Cycle on Marie’s public image and how it influenced later depictions and laudations of Marie, specifically in her entries into Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam and London. This chapter will show that Marie still had the same patronage agenda following her final exile and how the imagery of the Medici Cycle became part of the symbolism and vocabulary in Marie’s patronage and image that shaped opinions of Marie far past her death in 1642 to how her image is perceived today.