Peter Paul Rubens in majesty

Portrait of Eleonora de Gonzague, future Empress at 2, 1600-01, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

There is a true sense of excitement when one enters the first room of the magnificent Rubens exhibition at Palais du Luxembourg in which two paintings featuring Queen Marie de Medicis visiting Rubens’ studio and a large Gobelins tapestry are hanging : all are 19 th century works and they tell us how important the Flemish painter remained in art history two centuries after his death. 

Louis XIII between France and Navarre, ca 1630

The show which comprises 65 portraits of royal families in the early 17 th century, takes place in the Senate, the very house where the artist painted the Medici gallery. It is the first time that his royal portraits are shown together thanks to exceptional loans from the Prado, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Royal Collection Trust and many more…

Peter Paul Rubens, selfportrait, 1623, The Royal Collection/HM The Queen Elizabeth II

Born in a wealthy family in Antwerp, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) travelled to Italy, Austria, Paris and Spain and had access to all the Royal courts. He started with the court of Mantua in 1600 and his portraits of Ferdinand and Eleonore de Gonzague as children are very moving. In 1621, Cardinal de Richelieu asked him to come and paint the house of Marie de Medicis which would become the French Senate.

Claudius Jacquard, Marie de Medicis visiting Rubens’ studio, 1839

He was ennobled par Philippe IV and becomes an ambassador between Spain, England, and Holland. In 1629, he is made Secretary of the Council of Flanders in charge of establishing diplomatic relations with Charles 1 st and is awarded an MA from Cambridge University.

Peter Paul Rubens, Tapestry from the Gobelins, The wedding of Marie de Medicis (with Henri IV) 1830-1838

The rooms covered in red paint show majestic royal portraits and there is a fantastic atmosphere in this exhibition : the jewellery in two of Anne d’Autriche’s portraits is just riveting and the multiple rows of pearls on the Spanish Infante’s portrait of 1616 and on the Princess of Matua in 1606 are a jeweller’s dream.

Gaspard de Crayer, King Philip IV in parade armor, ca 1628, Metropolitan museum

There are also wonderful genealogical charts on the wall that enable you to understand the counsinage between  “European” royal families, so this show provides multiple pleasures, aesthetical and historical. It is as always at Palais du Luxembourg, not too large and therefore an easy visit. Don’t wait for the crowds, just go ! (Until January 14, 2018, 19 rue de Vaugirard)

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Anne d’Autriche (sister of Philip IV), wife of Louis XIII, ca 1622-1625, Norton Simon Museum

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