Things to see: 2 Rubens in the Niobe Room

It’s not the first time I write about art in the Niobe Room in the Uffizi. Its the same room that The Rape of Proserpina  and  The Senators of Florence swearing Allegiance to Ferdinando II de’Medici hang.

I wrote about that here: senators swear allegiance to ferniando II de’medici and here rape of proserpina

The Rubens paintings are masterpieces ofcourse, they are painted by Rubens after all. But what made them even more special I only learnt afterwards. Years ago in 1993 they were damaged in a terrible bomb explosion. The maffia had issued it as a retaliation for stricter rules enforced upon emprisoned maffia-people. The idea was to attack Italy where it would hurt the most, in its cultural heart: the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Altogether its a small miracle so many of the art could be restored. Only 3 minor art works were truly beyond repair another 200 works were damaged though and the damage on the building was 1 million euro. It was by no means a small bomb. 5 people died and 60 people were wounded. Amazingly enough the works are restored so well that you wouldn’t think twice about it when you see them. Even though the Niobe Room was hit really hard.

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It’s probably fitting that the paintings both have a fight scene with Henry IV of France on them.  The reason de’Medici family was interested in him was that he married the daughter of Catherine de’Medici, Margaret of Valois.

The first one shows Henry IV of France in the battle of Ivry. It’s painted in 1627 by Pieter Paul Rubens and was bought by Cosimo III de’Medici in 1686. It has been in the Uffizi Gallery since 1773. The painting is big just like the other paintings in the room: 367cm x 693cm.

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Legend has it that Henry IV motivated his man when he went into the battle of Ivry with the following words:

“Companions! If you today run at risk with me, I will also run at risk with you; I will be victorious or die. God is with us. Look at his and our enemies. Look at your king. Hold your ranks, I beg of you; and if the heat of battle makes you leave them, think also of rallying back: therein lies the key to victory. You will find it among those three trees that you can see over there on your right side. If you lose your ensigns, cornets or flags, do never lose sight of my panache; you will always find it on the road to honour and victory.”

Like the other paintings it is designed to go well with the Niobe collection specifically.

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The other painting of Henry IV shows his Triumphal entry in Paris on 22 March 15 1594. The painting is the same size as the other painting, painted by Rubens and purchased by the de’Medici family at the same time as the other one.

The painting shows Henry’s entry into Paris and he makes it clear that it was a triumphal entry by portraying Henry IV like a Roman emperor in a golden chariot going towards a triumph arch.

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It was really nice to see art that is presented in a room that was clearly designed for those particular art pieces in mind. And I still can’t believe that it was so close to be all blown in pieces and that it was restored so well.

Buonasera amici miei, Hilde

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