Divinity & Destiny: Marian Imagery in Rubens' Life of Marie de' Medici
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In 1622, the Dowager Queen of France, Marie de' Medici, had recently returned to Paris after a period of exile imposed by her son, Louis XIII, and commissioned a monumental cycle of images from Peter Paul Rubens to decorate the gallery of her freshly constructed Luxembourg Palace. The contract for the commission tasked Rubens with painting the “illustrious life and heroic deeds” of Marie de' Medici. This thesis argues that alongside the classical and the historical, Rubens employed a specifically Catholic visual language to create a painted panegyric of a heroic female sovereign. In doing so, Rubens linked Marie de' Medici with the Virgin Mary through compositional resonances and a personal iconography developed for the queen throughout her life in popular images and literary tributes. In the Medici Cycle, the maternal, virginal, and heroic virtues embodied by the Virgin served as justification for Marie de' Medici’s sovereignty and her reconciliation with Louis.