Mia Ruyter: Marie de Medici

Marie de Medici was queen regent of France for four years, (she ruled after her husband Henri IV was murdered until her first son, Louis XIII, was old enough to become king.) She created the narrative of her life as she lived it, distorting history without the help of passing time. She commissioned from Rubens a series of 24 paintings chronicling the story of her life. (The originals now hang in the Louvre.) She and Rubens negotiated very thoroughly and carefully each of the symbolic characters, colors, flowers, moments which would be depicted, considering the religious and political connotations in each detail.

This very active and conscious shaping of history was only partially successful. As part of her media strategy to regain and maintain power and influence as the mother of the King of France, it failed. She died penniless, a charity case living in one of the homes of Rubens. (Besides having a career as a successful artist, Rubens was an important diplomat.)

Her use of oil painting as a tool for spinning the news was innovative. In contemporary culture, we are familiar with the spin that politicians send out through the television, radio, and print media. Trust in the factual truth is diminished, if not completely gone. Vanished, like much of the image in these paintings. Marie de Medici is still present, but the images around her in the original paintings, the putti, the nymphs, the princesses, kings, diplomats, are gone or fading. Her immense ego, beautiful and vain, is all that is left. Rich and lively colors, but scarcely drawn architecture, lovers, minor gods and goddesses singing her praise.

(click on image for full size version)

Maria de Medici #5, 2003
Oil on canvas, 40x30 inches


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