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splendours of allegory, nor to have omitted the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus from active attendance upon her. An entirely realistic composition, such as perhaps would be approved now, would in those days have been rejected as cold, dull, and devoid of taste. The simple facts of the Life of Maria de Medici, down to the day of her reconciliation with her son, could not have furnished, even to a Rubens, enough stirring and inter
Fig. 69. THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA DE Medici by Proxy.
After a photograph from the original by Franz Hanfstäng), Munich. (To page 86.)
esting subjects to enliven a whole gallery of life-size pictures, and to supply them with the necessary variates of situation. If anywhere, it was in the design and execution of this Medici Gallery that he could give full scope to his imagination: and, in order to treat artistically otherwise dull Events of State, he resolved to transport them to Olympian Heights, and thus confer upon them an appearance of a monumental grandeur. It is perhaps true that in some cases these carefully worked up allegories show
too clearly that they are the result of calculation: but the greater number are full of the warm life, with which the creative genius of the artist could invest his figures. If the Gods and Goddesses appear occasionally too much like overdressed theatrical personages, they invariably delight the spectator with the charm of their healthy vitality. Splendid personifications of Rubens' ideal of female beauty are the Fates, who spin the thread of
Fig. 70. THE JOURNEY TO PONT DE CÉ.
After a photograph from the original by Franz Hanfstäng), Munich. (To page 89.)
the young Princess' life and the Nymphs, who accompany the ship, which bears her as a Royal bride to France. The picture of the Arrival in France, — if we except the Sea Deity, — who certainly takes up too much room is a faithful representation; since we know that the ship was most gorgeously decorated. The Marriage of Maria de Medicis by Proxy:— the old Archduke Ferdinand, as representative of the King of France stood with her before the Altar: — is still more like a picture drawn from actral fact. From an artistic point of view, it would not have mattered in the least had he painted a page as train-bearer to the bride; but it was more adapted to the taste of the time to give this function to a naked putto (Fig. 69). In most cases however, the principal actors in each scene seem to be merely secondary to the mythological and symbolical figures: or they themselves appear in the guise of Gods: as for instance, in the painting which represents the Nuptials, in which the Royal Pair figure as Jupiter and Juno enthroned on
Fig. 71. THE RECONCILIATION.
After a photograph from the original by Franız Hansstäng), Munich. (To page 90.)
Olympus, whilst a car drawn by lions indicates the town of Lyons, where the event took place. If we see the Death of Henry IV. symbolised by his soaring to Olympian Heights mounted upon an eagle, we need not wonder that Maria de Medici, journeying to Pont de Cé, is represented as Minerva on horseback (Fig. 70). The face is here idealized to harmonize with the helmet of the goddess : - although otherwise the Queen always appears in her own likeness; — full of youthful charm in the scenes from her early life and as a stately matron in her later years. Sometimes it is just the realistic appearance of this one head, which gives it so great a prominence amid the surrounding idealized figures; since we can have no doubt that this is the leading personage, in spite of the others who occupy so much of the surrounding space. This is specially evident in the Conclusion of Peace, where Her Majesty, haressed fruitlessly by the demons of Envy and Hatred enters the Temple of Peace(Fig71). It is true that a great many of these allegories are conceived rather superficially; but there are traits which unquestionably testify power of observation and deep sentiment: as, for instance, where the King examines for the first
time the portrait of Fig. 72. STUDY FROM THE NUDE. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna. After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach,
his Bride; or when the Paris and New-York. (To page 92.)
Queen is overcome by
the sight of her firstborn, and where at the Reconciliation she smiles at him through her tears. The whole work is one great thought, executed according to the spirit of the period, and is a creation which fully illustrates the power of Rubens, justly styled “the artist-prince of his time". Maria de Medici was so charmed with these works that, as soon as he had completed them, she commissioned him to execute four more paintings, to adorn the same Gallery. One was a representation of herself as Minerva : two more were portraits of her parents, the Grand-Duke and Grand-Duchess of Tuscany: whilst the fourth was to be a likeness of the artist himself. We ought also to relate here a pleasing anecdote: how She once assembled into the artist's presence all her court-ladies to obtain his opinion on their respective beauty; and how the lady who seemed to him most worthy of the prize was the Duchess of Guéménée. The Queen would much have liked to bind so famous an artist exclusively to her side: but Rubens wrote to a friend that he was “tired of that court”. He was dissatisfied besides, because Her Majesty seemed inclined to withhold the well deserved payment for so great an undertaking and was not even willing to reimburse him for the repeated journeys and expenses consequent on his stay in Paris. Soon after the completion of this work, he therefore returned to Antwerp.
There still exists a letter from him, addressed to Paris. It is without date, so that we do not know whether it refers to his first visit there, or to a second, which he undertook in order to finish the paintings: or perhaps to a subsequent stay in the summer of 1623. In this letter he desires that the sisters Capaio and their niece Louise should be ready for him to make life-size studies from them, for the SeaNymphs, which "were to accompany the ship in the picture of the Arrival of the Queen of France”. “It was not easy for him to find so beautiful a black,”— he adds, — "of raven hair”: though he seems after all to have preferred his favourite blonde types when he finally executed the painting. It is somewhat strange that an artist, who could master the drawing of his figures with such consummate knowledge and who probably painted most of his allegorical subjects without models, should have thought it necessary sometimes to make studies from life with such very great care. Among these latter the drawings now pre
· Fig. 73. STUDY OF A Head. Drawing in the Albertina at Vienna.
After a photograph from the original by Braun, Clément & Co., Dornach, served in the Albertina
Paris and New-York. (To page 92.)