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RUBENS:

MEDICI CYCLE

Peter Paul Rubens

Paris: Gaspard Duchange, 1710. Nattier, Jean Marc. La Gallerie du Palais du Luxembourg Peinte Par Rubens, Dessinee par Les S. Nattier, et graveee Par Les plus Illustres Graveurs du Temps. Dediee Au Roy. Engraved title page, one page of engraved text and 24 engraved and colored plates of which three are double sized. In 1622, Marie de' Medici, regent Queen of France, commissioned PeterPaul Rubens, the celebrated Flemish artist, to paint a series of twenty-fourcanvases commemorating important events in her life. The resulting MediciCycle, installed in 1625 in Marie's palace, The Luxembourg, achieved greatrenown and admiration for its artistry and its significance as an historicaldocument. So famed was the series that in 1706, King Louis XIV hired JeanMarc Nattier,  a prominent French engraver,

to oversee and publish prints ofthe canvases. The very finest of engravers were employed including Audran,Massé, Edelinck, Chastillon, Duchange, Loir, Trouvain, Simonneau, Picardand Vermellen.Marie de' Medici, a Florentine princess born in 1575, married King HenryIV of France in 1600. A religious fanatic murdered Henry in the streetsof Paris in 1610 and Marie assumed the throne of France as regent duringthe minority of Henry's heir, Louis XIII. Marie's sovereignty, whichcontinued past Louis' ascendancy in 1614, came to an end in 1631. Tocompensate for a reign marred by political unrest both at home and abroad,Marie commissioned the Medici Cycle, which not only marked significantepisodes in her life, but was also intended to lend legitimacy to her powerand credibility to her public image.

To achieve these goals, Peter PaulRubens was contracted to paint the canvases. Rubens was an exceptionalchoice for not only was he one of the leading artists of the day, he was alsoand international diplomat. His acceptance of the commission suggested hispolitical support for Marie just as his blend of history and allegory in thepaintings revealed his belief in her ability to reign as Queen.Jean Marc Nattier was the son of the portrait painter Marc Nattier andalso his student. His mother painted miniatures. Jean Marc attended theAcadémie Royale and at the precocious age of 15 years, won a first prizein drawing. At just 21 years of age, he received the commission from KingLouis XIV to oversee and execute the engravings for the Medici Cycle. Thecomplete engravings were published in 1710 and dedicated to the King.