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Women in Power: Caterina and Maria de’ Medici

The Return to Florence of Two Queens of France

Clarice Innocenti

30,00 €

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edited by C. Innocenti

essays by di C. Acidini, V. Auclair,
G. Bonsanti, J.M. Bradburne, A. Brejon de Lavergnée,
L. Capodieci, R. Contini, B. Gaehtgens, C. Innocenti,
S. Mamone, M. Sframeli, J. Vittet

exhibition catalogue: Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 24 October 2008-8 February 2009

publication year: 2008
paperback with flaps
245x290 mm; 196 pp.
128 colour and 7 b&w illustrations

978-88-7461-123-2 English
978-88-7461-122-5 Italian

The myth of Artemisia as the celebration of two modern queens: Caterina and Maria de’ Medici, who left their native city of Florence to become regents of France, are portrayed through the images that helped them legitimate their power. The exhibition (Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 24 October 2008–8 February 2009) revolves around fifteen monumental tapestries that were displayed in enormously successful shows at the Gobelins Gallery in Paris in 2007 and at the Château de Chambord in 2008. The tapestry series was inspired by the Histoire de la Royne Arthémise, composed in the 1560s by Nicolas Houel to celebrate Queen Caterina de’ Medici, the widow of Henry II of France and regent of the kingdom. Houel’s complex heroine is actually the fusion of two queens of ancient Caria, both of whom named Artemisia. One fought alongside Xerxes in the 5th century BC and the other, who lived a century later, was the widow of King Mausolus and had the famous Mausoleum—considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—built at Halicarnassus in his honour. Execution of the tapestries, which were commissioned by Henry IV to commemorate his wife Maria, started in 1607, although several changes were made with respect to the original plans. The core of the exhibition is accompanied by a section examining the tastes and personalities of the two queens through paintings and objects tied to them. In addition to priceless goldwork, the exhibition also showcases the talisman that belonged to Caterina (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris), an autograph letter of Maria with one of her drawings, and a canvas portraying Henry IV and Maria at an outdoor banquet (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes). The exhibition ends with the section entitled “The Restoration of Artemisia to Myth”, with eight paintings by 17th-century Italian artists, including Francesco Curradi, Cesare Dandini and Domenico Fetti.