Thursday Seminar: “The Paradoxical Queen in the Garden: Maria de’ Medici at Fontainebleau”


Thursday, November 16, 2017, 6:00pm


Gould Hall

From the moment of his marriage to his new consort Maria de’ Medici in 1600, Henri IV began to sanction imagery that promoted her value to the French monarchy.Not only prints, medals and sculptures showed the royal couple as partners, but also expansive changes to the residences and gardens chronicled this new direction in the French portrayal of queens. Medici models and artists played an increasingly large role in crafting an honored place for the queen that lasted into her role as regent and queen mother after Henri’s death in 1610.

Different media and locations demanded carefully varied kinds of representation, however, that changed over time. The royal château at Fontainebleau, the site of rapid construction of decorated rooms and a gallery in the queen’s apartment, as well as a renovation of the queen’s garden that Primaticcio had created for Caterina de’ Medici in the mid-sixteenth century, chronicles these changes. Tommaso Francini, the fountain engineer sent from Florence at the beginning of the new Bourbon monarchy to re-craft Henri’s gardens after working on the Medici villa at Pratolino, made a new fountain of Diana for the queen’s garden at Fontainebleau that departed significantly from Caterina’s earlier garden imagery and visually linked the new fountain to others he created in the king’s garden.

In this seminar, Nicola Courtright will argue that Francini’s fountain ushered in a new artful vocabulary that wittily, yet seriously, illuminated the paradoxical position that a queen occupied in the early modern period. Aligned with the popular literary genre of paradox in France often with women as their subject, it was a mode particularly suited to a garden, but only one of a variety of means employed to allude to the Bourbon queen’s delicate political authority.

Nicola Courtright is William McCall Vickery 1957 Professor of the History of Art at Amherst College. Her publications span a range of areas within early modern Europe, including the art and architecture of the Vatican Palace, the subject of her 2003 book, The Papacy and the Art of Reform in Sixteenth-Century Rome: Gregory XIII and the Tower of the Winds in the Vatican; Bernini sculpture; Louis XIV’s bedroom in Versailles; and Rembrandt drawings. She is past president of the College Art Association and recent editor-in-chief of Grove Art Online, and is currently vice chair of the American Council of Learned Societies.