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Work The Apotheosis of Henri IV and the Proclamation of the Regency of Marie de Médicis

Department of Paintings: Flemish painting

L'Apothéose d'Henri IV et la proclamation de la régence de la reine, le 14 mai 1610

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

Paintings
Flemish painting

Author(s):
Collange Adeline

This picture depicts the key moment in the 24-picture cycle which Rubens painted for the Médicis Gallery in the Palais du Luxembourg: Marie de Médicis' accession to power. The composition has two poles of attention: on the left, "The King being borne heavenwards," i.e., Henri IV's deification, and on the right, "The Queen's Regency". Rubens uses a complex pictorial vocabulary of allegories and mythological figures in a décor referring to antiquity to establish the regency's political legitimacy.

The key moment in the Médicis cycle

This painting originally hung opposite the allegory to Marie de Médicis in the Triumph of Truth, the first of the 24-picture cycle glorifying the queen's greatest deeds in the Médicis Gallery in the Palais du Luxembourg. It depicts the key moment in the cycle, the establishment of the regency's political legitimacy. The composition has two poles: on the left, the deification of Henri IV after his assassination by Ravaillac and, on the right, the queen's accession to power. Their son, Louis XIII, being only nine years old, Marie de Médicis, dressed in mourning, takes the reins of power and reigns over the kingdom of the living.

A complex blend of allegory and mythology

Henri is being borne heavenwards. The writhing snake pierced by an arrow is an allusion to his assassin, Ravaillac. He is being carried away by Jupiter, king of the gods, supported by his eagle, and by Saturn, whose sickle shows that Time will remember Henri's reign. Hercules awaits him on Mount Olympus, sitting next to Mercury. Hercules was a demi-god who won his immortality through his exploits, and his image had been used by the Bourbons; Rubens is therefore playing on a flattering comparison for Henri IV, likening him to a kind of Gallic Hercules on his way to the heroes' pantheon. Marie de Médicis is surrounded by mythological figures auguring the justice of her reign. Divine Providence is handing her the helm, symbolizing a just and straight course. The queen is being advised by, on her left, Minerva, the wise warrior goddess, and on her right, Prudence, who is presenting France to her. The allegory of France, helmeted, is kneeling on one knee to offer her the globe of government, which is accepted by the gathering of the Grands du Royaume (noblemen of the highest rank) swearing allegiance to her. The reference to antiquity is manifest in this political glorification: the queen is sitting in state in front of an antique triumphal arch, Henri IV is dressed as a Roman emperor and Bellona, the winged goddess of War, is holding a trophy directly inspired by antiquity.

Baroque inspiration to extol the queen

Tragedy and glory, two facets of a single story in which the queen is celebrated like an epic heroine of contemporary literature of the day. Two distinct episodes which Rubens subtly combines in a dynamic composition that leads the eye from curve to curve towards the right. The composition is also organically held together by color, notably by the reds echoing one another. The painting's baroque vigor was admired by many artists. The remarkable winged figure of Bellona, bursting with naked life, was copied by Cézanne many times and likewise by Delacroix, whose Liberty Guiding the People was inspired by her.

Bibliography

Mirimonde Albert Pomme de, Le Langage secret de certains tableaux du musée, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1984, p.128-130.
Thuillier Jacques, Foucart Jacques, Rubens, la Galerie Médicis au Palais du Luxembourg, Paris, Laffont, 1969.

Technical description

  • Petrus Paulus RUBENS (Siegen (Westphalie), 1577 - Anvers, 1640)

    L'Apothéose d'Henri IV et la proclamation de la régence de la reine, le 14 mai 1610

  • H. : 3,94 m. ; L. : 7,27 m.

  • INV. 1779

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Rubens: the Galerie Médicis
    Room 18

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