Marie de' Medici, Queen of France
Marie de' Medici (Maria de’ Medici) (1573-1642) was the wife
of Henry IV. She was the daughter of Francesco I, Grand
Duke of Tuscany and lived in Florence until her marriage in
The Florentine court supplied her with several artists who
settled in Paris, notably Thomas Francini, Alexandre Francini and Pietro
Francavilla, and this influenced her first important commission, an equestrian
statue of Henry IV. In 1604 she ordered the statue from Giambologna, and the
finished work was placed on the tip of the Ile de la Cité, Paris, in 1614,
halfway across the Pont Neuf: the horse by Giambologna, the rider by his
assistant Pietro Tacca and the four slaves of the pedestal by Francavilla.
Because of Medici traditions of patronage it is often assumed that the Queen inspired the early
17th-century royal building program in Paris, but there is no evidence that she played any part in it. Her
patronage was limited to two other projects during Henry IV’s reign: the decoration of the chapel of the Trinité at
the château of Fontainebleau by Martin Fréminet and the completion of the château of Monceaux en Brie by Salomon de
Brosse. Marie also planned a tomb for her husband, which was begun in 1613 by one of the Métézeau brothers, Louis
or Clément (successive Architects to the King), but never completed.
Marie emerged as an important patron during her regency (1610–1617) for her son, Louis XIII. In
1611 she decided to build a new residence in Paris modeled on her childhood home, the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, and
sent Louis Métézeau there to make drawings.
In 1612–1613 de Brosse won the competition for what was to become the Palais du Luxembourg. He
set a traditional French château plan in a suburban garden, acknowledging the Florentine model only in his
elevations and use of rustication.
The Jardins du Luxembourg, which followed the Boboli Gardens, Florence, in their general layout,
were notable for their parterres, designed by Jacques Boyceau, and the architectural grotto, probably by the
Francini brothers. To supply the palace with water the Queen had the Arcueil Aqueduct built, in which de Brosse and
Thomas Francini were involved. Following a rift with her son in 1617, Marie was forced to spend two years in Blois,
where she had de Brosse add a pavilion to the château.
In the 1620s Marie concentrated on the interior decoration of her palace. In 1622 she
commissioned Peter Paul Rubens to paint two cycles, the Life of Marie de’ Medici and that of Henry IV. The Marie
de’ Medici cycle was installed in the west gallery in 1625; the Henry IV cycle was not executed.
In the Cabinet des Muses she hung a series of paintings by Giovanni Baglione of Apollo and the
Nine Muses, and the Cabinet Doré was decorated with a series of works by contemporary Florentine painters (Jacopo
Ligozzi, Domenico Passignano, Giovanni Bilivert and others) on the history of the Medici family.
After receiving an Annunciation from Guido Reni, Marie invited the artist to Paris in 1629 to
paint the Henry IV cycle.
Reni declined, but other foreigners attended her court:
Frans Pourbus the younger, the poet Giambattista Marino and Orazio
Gentileschi. Philippe de Champaigne was appointed Peintre de la Reine in
Among the French artists who enjoyed this contact with
Italian culture was Nicolas Poussin, employed at the Palais du Luxembourg
After losing a political struggle with Cardinal Richelieu in
1630, Marie left France and ended her life in exile.
The collection she left behind had a lasting impact on
French painting and art theory, not by advancing any one style but by
introducing the work of Rubens and contemporary Italian painters to Paris.