The Louvre Royal Women Mary of Medici Anne of Austria with Marie Dessaillen

The Louvre Royal Women Mary of Medici Anne of Austria with Marie Dessaillen


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In this conversation, we will explore how art in 17th century France was used by women for their own empowerment through two cycles of paintings at the Louvre. We'll also discuss the relationship between commissioner and artist, the process of creation, as well as French history (Mary of Medici cycle somehow tells her life in a slightly different way than our history books!) and female status in pre-revolutionary France.

Art and power go so well together, and women understood that marvelously in 17th century France. At a time when women in power were systematically questioned by the nobility, in a country where females could not inherit the throne, two Regents kept the country going during the childhood of their child-king. To strengthen their positions, they covered the walls and ceilings of their apartments with political paintings to influence the courtiers who were constantly living with them, or the ambassadors visiting them. Art then was not just decoration, it had a hidden agenda dispersed in tiny (or not so tiny) details. Before Louis XIV created his total masterpiece of propaganda with the ch̢teau de Versailles, his grandmother and mother had paved the way. Using allegories, this new type of illustrated speech that developed in the Renaissance, Mary of Medici and Anne of Austria told their own takes on history in order to influence its outcome.

The Louvre is lucky enough to be home to two of those masterpieces. The 24 gigantic paintings of Flemish painter Pieter Paul Rubens tell the life story of Mary of Medici while the French sculptor Michel Anguier joined forces with the Italian fresquist Giovanni Francesco Romanelli to secure with art the position of Queen Mother Anne of Austria after the Fronde Revolution. Together with our expert Marie, we will learn how to read those allegories - a vocabulary we have (sadly) long stopped using. Indeed, this empowerment of the queens influenced deeply the aristocratic circles: those years saw the birth of the Parisian salons and the pr̩cieuses movement, the very first step of France towards gender equality.

Led by Art Historian Marie Dessaillen, this interactive seminar will unpick the theme of women in 17th-century French art with the aid of two cycles of paintings. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with a true understanding of this lesser-spoken about topic.

The daughter of a sculptor, Marie has been surrounded by art ever since she was born. A native Parisienne, she holds an undergraduate degree in history and art history, with a specialty in iconography and French and Flemish paintings from the 16th to the 18th centuries. She also holds a Master's degree in museology from the Ecole du Louvre and one in Art History from the Sorbonne.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.