Peter Paul Rubens, The Landing of Marie De’Medici at Marseilles, 1622-25

In 1621 Rubens was commissioned to create a series of 24 paintings commemorating the events in the life of Marie de’ Medici of France; the works are known as the Marie de’ Medici Cycle and hang in the Louvre. The cycle was designed to legitimize Marie’s questionable status as ruler, after a rocky decade where her husband was assassinated and her teenage son exiled her from Paris. This particular painting shows Marie’s arrival at Marseilles on 3 November 1600 where she would marry the French King Henry IV; Fame trumpets her arrival, Poseidon, Triton, and three Nereids below finish escorting her boat, and the personification of France greets her with open arms. It’s ironic that although the painting is about the queen, the first things our eyes are drawn to are those voluptuous sea nymphs, and we tend to linger there forgetting all about Marie.

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