We turn now to the next installment of Rubens’ Medici cycle. Last time young Marie got educated by a bunch of scantily clad gods in a cave. Having established she had a childhood, blah blah blah, this week she gets to her important womanly duty of wooing a man. And she doesn’t even have to be present to do it!
When some angels descend to show her portrait to Henry IV of France, he is immediately besotted and desirous to engage her in holy matrimony. I, personally, would be a little weirded out by someone I had never met writing to propose out of the blue because “some cherubim showed me your totally hawt pics,” but whatever.
Everyone and everything in the universe is supportive of this marriage. Divine support is shown by Jupiter and Juno hanging out on a cloud, looking down with vaguely smug expressions at the lovestruck Henry. They are supposed to present a model “marital harmony,” which is a little ironic given Jupiter’s difficulty keeping his thunderbolt in his toga. But then, given that ol’ Henry had a few mistresses, including one that had borne him three kids before his first divorce and another he’d promised to marry but then changed his mind for Marie, maybe it isn’t such a bad parallel.
Here are a couple of naked baby angels playing with armor. Aww, he’s so sweet cuddling that helmet! I guess this represents, I dunno, that matrimony is war?
This figure creepily breathing down Henry’s neck is France. France is depicted here as “being both woman and man at the same time.” Because nothing says national support for royal brides like breathless spooning from a bare-boobed hermaphrodite.
Edit: I had written about her young age previously, but it turns out I had a terrible mathematical brain slip, and Marie was actually kind of an old maid for the period. My apologies.
I found this while looking up stuff on Henry IV, and it was too awesome not to share. Painted by the circle of Toussaint Dubreuil about 1600—the year Henry married Marie—he is shown as Hercules slaying the Hydra.
|Why yes, this is my real body.|