Allegory of the regency of Anne of Austria.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet
Publication date: February 2014
Academy Inspector Deputy Academic Director
The regency of Anne of Austria
While its date of completion is attested - 1648 - it is not known both who commissioned the painting and its location until it was purchased by King Louis-Philippe in 1839, when it therefore joined the State collections. Its author is, on the other hand, proven: it is Laurent de La Hyre, painter and engraver in activity since the age of twenty-five who contributes to the success of Atticism - artistic current derived from classicism and characterized by delicacy. line and clarity - by painting religious, mythological and allegorical subjects set in rural settings or ruins, while giving pride of place to the male and especially female body.
The scene depicted is controversial. Today, after analyzes by Pierre Rosenberg and Jacques Thuillier, it is interpreted as an allegory of the regency of Anne of Austria.
Daughter of King Philip III of Spain and Queen of France by her marriage to Louis XIII, Anne of Austria has governed France in the name of her minor son Louis XIV since 1643. Her regency, whose conditions of exercise have been strengthened thanks to the support of the Parliament of Paris following the death of Louis XIII, relies on the ministry of Cardinal Mazarin. Internal disturbances disturb the tranquility of the kingdom, while the Thirty Years' War continues at the borders. The parliamentary Fronde broke out in the spring of 1648 and destabilized the royal power.
Laurent de La Hyre therefore chooses to represent the regency of Anne of Austria at the very moment when it is most contested, in the form of an allegory - the personification of an abstract idea and a genre prevalent in 17th century painting.e century.
An allegorical portrait
Laurent de La Hyre's canvas appeals to the classic codes of allegorical figures of Virtue and Power, as Cesare Ripa represented them in the ’Iconologia (1593). Against the backdrop of an ancient colonnade and pediment, three women and a child fully occupy the iconographic space. On the left, a woman wears the attributes of Virtue: winged and dressed in a tunic marked with a sun, she holds a pike and supports a laurel wreath above another woman, the embodiment of Power. She is seated and turns her head towards Virtue. She occupies a central position in the composition, and the colors of her clothes - red and blue in particular - contrast with those of the other characters. His right hand holds up a palm, while his left is resting on a fleur-de-lis globe. Flying to the right, another winged woman mouths the Trumpet of Fame and towers over a child who sets a gun trophy on fire. His wreath of flowers and the olive branch he holds in his right hand designate him as an allegory of Peace.
On the ground, to the weapon trophy located on the right, answer the fruits of the cornucopia and the trumpet located on the left: the destruction of this leads to the rebirth of these. The allegory of the regency of Anne of Austria is indeed a painting of the rebirth resulting from the peace found after a long Thirty Years' War. Staged like good government - allowing the peaceful exercise of virtue and the prosperity of the kingdom - Anne of Austria's regency is worthy of the praise trumpeted by Fame. In the center, only the Allegory of Power wears a contemporary hairstyle from the mid-17th centurye century, thus referring to a sublimated image of Anne of Austria herself.
A political manifesto at the start of the Fronde
Its theme, at the very beginning of the Fronde, made the canvas a political manifesto favorable to Anne of Austria. It is above all the pacifying action of the Regency that is highlighted here. In a feminized space subtly excluding Cardinal Mazarin from the political scene, which crystallizes discontent, Anne of Austria can capitalize on the fruits of the victory won by the young Duke of Enghien (future Grand Condé) in Lens on August 20 1648 and those of the peace treaty concluded on October 24 of the same year. The piety of the queen - by the temple pediment -, her glory - by Fame -, her virtue and her good government are also valued.
A feminine painting that exalts power, de La Hyre's work ignores the effective pursuit of the foreign war, because competition with Spain lasts another ten years, until 1659. Even more, it voluntarily hides the war civil lit in the spring of 1648 by the Fronde, which plunges the kingdom into a period of upheaval of the power of the regent and its principal minister Mazarin, and which forced the royal family to leave Paris in August 1648. This is why the allegory of the Regency appears as a work aimed at strengthening the legitimacy of the power of Anne of Austria in the face of the demands of the Parliament of Paris.
The belonging of this painting to an apologetic tradition of valuing female powers - which reached a peak with the cycle painted by Rubens for Marie de Médicis (decade 1620) and an allegorical revival at the Palais-Royal occupied by Anne of Austria between 1643 and 1648 (see the program painted by Simon Vouet) - allows the action of Louis XIV's mother to be inscribed in a line of legitimizing female and virtuous administration of the kingdom of the lilies.
- Anne of Austria
Christopher ALLEN, The Grand Siècle of French painting, Paris, Thames & Hudson, coll. "World of Art", 2005.
Fanny COSANDEY, The Queen of France. Symbol and power. 15th-18th century, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Library of stories", 2000.
Chantal GRELL (dir.), Anne of Austria. Infanta of Spain and Queen of France, Paris / Madrid / Versailles, Perrin / Centro de estudios Europa Hispánica / Center de recherche du château de Versailles, coll. "The Habsburgs", 2009.
· Pierre ROSENBERG and Jacques THUILLIER, Laurent de La Hyre, 1606-1656. The man and the work, catalog of the exhibition of the museums of Grenoble (January 14-April 10, 1989), Rennes (May 9-August 31, 1989) and Bordeaux (October 6, 1989-January 6, 1990), Genève-Grenoble, Skira-Musée de Grenoble, 1988.
Sophie VERGNES, The Slingshots. A female revolt (1643-1661), Seyssel, Champ Vallon, coll. “Epochs”, 2013.
To cite this article
Jean HUBAC, "Allegory of the regency of Anne of Austria"