Rubens's Life of Maria de' Medici: Dissimulation and the politics of art in early seventeenth-century France

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The Life of Maria de' Medici, the biographical series of twenty-four large-size paintings executed for the Queen Mother of France by Peter Paul Rubens in 1622 -25, is traditionally regarded by historians as both a masterpiece of Baroque art and a monument of political naïveté. According to this view, the series was a disrespectful visual bravado that exposed both patron and painter to scandal by publicly advertising the queen's political ideas and ambitions, which were not only audacious, but often in opposition to those of her son King Louis XIII. This article challenges this assessment by reading the Life within the context of seventeenth-century uses of dissimulation and spatial control as strategies to limit both intellectual and physical access to information. It argues that the series was imbued with multiple layers of meaning, intended for different audiences, and that access to these was strictly controlled by the queen and her circle.






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Galletti, S (2014). Rubens's Life of Maria de' Medici: Dissimulation and the politics of art in early seventeenth-century France. Renaissance Quarterly, 67(3). pp. 878–916. 10.1086/678777 Retrieved from

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Sara Galletti

Associate Professor in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Sara Galletti received an M.Arch. from IUAV (Venice) and a joint Ph.D. in the History of Architecture from the Sorbonne (Paris) and IUAV. Her field of research is early modern architectural theory and practice, with a focus on early modern Europe and the Mediterranean. She has published on secular and religious architecture, on Philibert de L'Orme, on the urban history of Paris, on the relations between space and social structures, as well as on the history of stereotomy.

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