Pieter Paul Rubens

Arrival in Lyon

Arrival in Lyon
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Pieter Paul Rubens
History Painting, Painting, Oil on canvas, grisaille painting, 33.5x24.2 cm
Origin: Flanders, 1622

With the idea of decorating the eastern and western galleries of the Luxembourg Palace with pictures, French Queen Maria de? Medici , mother of Louis XIII, commissioned two series of works from Rubens. The gallery in the eastern wing would celebrate the "battles" and "triumphs" of Henry IV - the spouse of Maria de Medici. This order was not carried out. The gallery in the western wing would present "events of the glorious life and heroic deeds" of the Queen herself. This series, consisting of 24 paintings, now hangs in the Louvre. Rubens's preparatory works for the "Medici Gallery" were almost exclusively oil sketches, and five of these are in the Hermitage.

The tenth composition in the series reflects the moment of Henry IV's reunification with his fiancee Maria de Medici in Lyon on 9 December 1600. Eight days later the official marriage ceremony of the new royal pair was celebrated in the Lyon cathedral. An allegorical depiction of this event was captured on the Hermitage bozzetto , which is the only preparation for the composition known today.

Following the traditions of court art, Rubens has presented the king and queen in the form of the Olympian gods Jupiter and Juno seated solemnly in the heavens. The gods are easily recognized by their holy attributes: Jupiter, by an eagle; and Juno, by a peacock. Hymen, the god of marriage, joins the hands of Jupiter and Juno. In the lower part of the composition, the goddess of the city of Lyon, wearing the city's crown and holding a shield with the coat-of-arms in one hand, rides on a chariot which is pulled by lions representing the city of Lyon. In the programmatic description of the subject contained in a manuscript of the Baluze Collection , it is noted that the chariot to which the lions are harnessed should remind us of the "festivities arranged on the occasion of the entrance into Lyon of the King and Queen". In the context of the scene, the depiction of cupids seated on lions may be taken as a clear indication that Henry IV submits to the force of love, which is capable of taming even a ferocious lion.

The depiction of the chariot itself, with its harnessed lions, was evidently inspired by the composition in the cameo The Triumph of Semele, which Rubens considered to date from Classical Antiquity and which came from the artist's own collection.

This grisaille sketch differs from the final version of the painting in only minor ways.

Personage: Maria de'Medici
Style: Baroque
Source of entry: Collection of baron L.A. Crozat de Tierra, Paris, 1772
Theme: Allegory

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