If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:5:24

Rubens, Arrival (or Disembarkation) of Marie de Medici at Marseilles, Medici Cycle

Video transcript

when the loofah and we're looking at the monumental cycle by peter paul rubens of Marie de Medici there are 24 canvases that were painted by Rubens over a four-year period with the help of his workshop now according to the contract he had to paint all the figures but his assistants could certainly paint in much of the rest this is a major Commission by one of the most powerful women in Europe at this time if not the most powerful woman her father was the Duke of Tuscany and her husband was Henry the fourth King of France this cycle is a commemoration of the major events of her life although I have to come out and say it it is absurd in its grandeur it is completely over the top this is a woman who had some significant events in her life but it certainly was extremely wealth and extremely powerful nevertheless Rubens clearly had to struggle and bring in every mythological stage prop that he could in order to complete a cycle that was we can only say dedicated to her ego in reality she had an interesting and and problematic life there were quite a number of scandals and not least of which was when her son who would be louis xiii he was too young to take the throne and so she was in control of france as regent but then when he finally came to age she continued to reign she wouldn't let him ascend to the throne and when he was finally old enough and had the authority to be able to say no it's my turn he actually banished her from france and he wouldn't allow her to come back for years and you get the sense of why because she was obviously very ambitious very powerful and it might have been hard to rule in her presence in her shadow yeah let's take a look at the ninth painting in the series of 24 it is when she is coming to France from Italy it's called the DM barkay ssin at Marseilles and you know to get off a ship is not usually seen as a particularly triumphant moment but Rubens is able to make this seem as if it itself is a triumphant moment she's the Queen Victoria brough her with trumpets announcing her around not just one but two trumpets this is the beginning of her fulfillment of her destiny as Queen of France and we see France personified by a figure that seems to be preparing to kneel before her wearing a blue cape of gold fleur-de-lis is the symbol of the royal family of France behind her as a knight of Malta that looks on this fabulous ship is heavily wrought this sky in the most baroque fashion is just swirling and full of energy but that's nothing compared with what goes on below the gangplank that's right we have three Nereids or sea nymphs below her along with the gods of the sea rise and turn almost as if they are the sea themselves it's as if their bodies are waves there's just tremendous energy and real beauty I mean look at the colors and the understanding of the torsion of the body the drama of their poses contrasts with the stateliness and the grandeur of Marie de Medici know you'll notice that they are actually assisting by holding the ship fast to the lands of the cheek and walking usually able the pagan gods and goddesses and figures of victory are all there the service of Marie de Medici is destiny as Queen and it's strange she's a little bit set back compared to the sea nymphs who really occupy more than a third of the canvas okay so I think we've made the point it is completely over the top but let's get really close and take a look at the paint okay so the painting is hung in such a way that it starts about four feet off the floor so that we can only really look up to see gods and the nereids in Rubens characteristic handling of paint there's just a tremendous sense of motion and energy I'm really struck by the beard and the gray hair of the sea God in the foreground if you look directly under him you can see what looked like raw strokes of paint there's a kind of energy and a kind of facility that Rubens has and then look at the coloration of venerians they are full of pinks and yellows and greens and blues and look at all the foreshortening that's going on there's an who's that one of the nereids is holding on to and tying a rope around that's moving into our space that sea god that you talked about a moment ago reaches his hand back into space everything in the bottom of this canvas is in motion I'm particularly taking by the way in which their eyes are absolutely alive with specks of white paint which become this beautiful reflective surface you also see that in the pearls and the hair of the women and then you see it in the drips of water that come off their body now these 24 campuses were of course not originally arrayed in the Louvre they were in the palace of the Luxembourg Gardens which was in fact Marie de Medici zone palace and that was built to remind her of Florence it's really fun to go from one to the other and read the story of these great moments of her life