The little Art Seeker is back! For you we saw the magnificent exhibition dedicated to one of the greatest painters of the 17th century: Peter Paul Rubens!The man was the most famous painter of his time but also an embassador who was treated by his patrons as a real guest star!
The exhibition reveals a little -known yet essential part of the artist’s work: his portraits of kings and queens ,princes and princesses.Rubens was linked to the queen Marie de’Medici ,widow of Heny IV and mother of Louis XIII.
She was connected to all the ruling dynasties through her family origins and the alliances forged by her children.The musée du Luxembourg is the setting here, within the walls of the palace that Marie de’Medici had built in 1615 and for which she commissioned Rubens to create a series of monumental paintings for its walls to illustrate her life;
The exhibition is also a kind of family album for the queen whose large family was largely represented by Rubens and his rivals.The master reveals all his originality at a time when painting was extremely codified and prestigious.
Rubens was considered as a painter of portly women and a kind of businessman who painted very little ,delegating his vast production to his studio.Marie de Medici played a very important role in his career and in return Rubens was very important in shaping her own image.
Without him,the queen would probably have been forgotten for a long time!
In his royal portraits (Some 50 paintings out of a total of around 1.500 ) Rubens used his studio to help him produce several replicas from his own prototype.He also realized these prestigious portraits through high quality engravings,which furthered his reputation as much as that of his subjects.
This remarkable reproduction of Rubens ‘painting « the wedding of Henry IV and Catherine de’Medici « reveals the great interest for Rubens’art in the 19th century.The wedding was a very important event in the painter’s life who was himself present during the ceremony as a member of the court of the duke of Mantua.The exhibition offers some paintings of the queen’s life by painters of the 19th century ,some giving us an interesting glimpse of the life at the court of the powerful queen.
These two paintings show us Rubens’place as a very accomplished painter through the eyes of the 19th century’s painters.Here , he’s represented in front of his painting ,with his palette and his brushes,in the mean time the queen seated on the right part of the composition seems to be deeply moved discovering the first sketch of a series of 24 paintings dedicated to her life.The work highlights the interest raised by the relationships between the artist and the Queen Mother.
Unlike his rivals, Rubens was not the son of a painter , but born into a wealthy family in Antwerp,where his father practised law. He received a humanist education and served for a time as squire to a Flemish noblewoman,both of which experiences helped teach him how to behave in a royal court.Rubens stayed in Italy between 1600 and 1608 and was quickly employed by Vincenzo Gonzaga,Duke of Mantua ,thus also becoming a court painter.
As such ,he produced portraits and was part of the Mantuan escort that attended the marriage of Marie de ‘Medici in Florence.Rubens was very much influenced by Titian’s works.As an erudite painter he wanted to represent holy,mythological ,allegorical and historic subjects above all.
When he was working for the duke of Mantua,Rubens realized this copy from one Titian’s painting today lost.It represents Isabelle d’Este ,patron and collector and great grandmother of the duke.The painting reveals the importance of the work of the Italian master in Rubens’production.
In late 1608,his mother’s illness led Rubens to return in Antwerp.While there he was asked by the Flanders royals to become their official painter.Both Hapsburgs,Archiduke Albert (From the Austrian and therefore imperial line)and Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia(daughter of king Philp II of Spain)ruled the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium)a catholic territory controlled by the Kingdom of Spain (when the Northern Protestant Provinces now the Netherlands established their independence).
Rubens chose to live in Antwerp rather than Brussels ,the seat of the Archdukes ‘court.He was free to paint for clients of his choice ,as long as he gave the priority to the paintings requested by his royal patrons,especially the official images.
Rubens was very close to the Archduchess who,upon being widowed in 1621 and adopting a nun’s habit, employed him as peacekeeping diplomat.
On these two portraits realized by Cornelis de Vos ,Rubens was involved in the realization of the final retouches :final touch on the face,and highlights of white on the sleeves and the ruff.
In 1628,Archiduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia sent Rubens to Madrid to inform King Philip of his diplomaticactivities and paint the members of her family, the royal family.
Philip IV also commissioned several paintings ,including an equestrian portrait.During his nine months in Madrid, Rubens was able to study the work of Titian, rediscovering it with the younger Velazqez ,official painter to the king whom he advised to travel to Italy.
Now destroyed,this royal image realized by Velazquez depicts the royal in action surrounded by allegorical figures.This one is on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
In 1621, Rubens was asked to paint for the French court.Marie de’Medici,who in 1615 negotiated the dual marriage of her older children,Louis XIII and Elizabeth, with Anne of Austria and her brother , the future Philip IV,commissioned two cycles from him for the galleries of the Palais du Luxembourh,to tell the story of her life and that of Henry IV,her deceased husband.
During his trip to Paris,Rubens managed to capture the features of the queen mother and the royal couple.During her reign and beyond, Marie de’Medici used artists to shape a certain image of herself that legitimised her political action .
Rubens and his friend Pourbus all along with the great Van Dyck, realized gorgeous versions of the powerful queen.The portraits reveal her physical evolution from queen and regent to mother in conflict with her son and finally princess in exile
.In 1631,Marie de’Medici left France to live in Antwerp, like Rubens, before spending her final years in Cologne.The little Art Seeker loved the several representations of this powerful woman who under Rubens’ brushes appears more human and sensitive ,far away from her functions of woman of power.
Marie de Medici was the grand daughter of an emperor, the daughter of the grand duke of Tuscany,the sister of the Duchess of Mantua and the wife of King IV , assasinated in 1610.
In an attempt to magnify her, Rubens realized a cycle for a gallery of the Palais du Luxembourg .The gallerie Medicis combines historic events with allegory, portraits with mythological figures.The Little Art seeker really loved the series of the 24 paintings preparatory to the queen’s gallery,with all the great events of her life seen from the mythological point of view.
The 17th century was marked by the heroification of certain princes and princesses .Unlike the Hapsburgs who retained an ancient and almost divine legitimacy,Henri Iv and Marie de’Medicii used the artists of their time to legitimise their power.
When in 1623, a courtier wished to give the Prince of Wales,and future Charles I of England ,a painting by Rubens , he received a self’portrait.Rubens at the time was one of Europe’s greatest painters and considered himself as important as the kings he portrayed!
No other artist had such a broad clientele,with patrons and clients belonging to the elite of various European centres of art.Rubens lived his life surrounded by these royals and his portrait brought him wealth and fame.
Rubens had close ties with his subjects and his talents and the proximity with his sittters gave us gorgeous portraits all imbued with the master’s talents who will make of these rulers of the great court of Europe illistrious and alive for ever.
The Liitle Art Seeker loved the painter’s self portrait that ends the exhibition,with his very confident and rather arrogant gaze,Rubens still puzzles us by his talent centuries after his death.
So, if you viisit Paris and have a few hours in front of you ,visit this gorgeous exhibition.The little Art Seeker warmly recommends it! See you soon!!!