London, 29 June - 7 July 2017
In 1637, the French Catholic Henrietta Maria de Bourbon, wife of King Charles I of England, expressed a wish to have a painting with a mythological theme for the ceiling of her bedchamber in the Queen's House in Greenwich. The painting would be the last large scale work executed by the painter, who worked on it between 1639 and 1640. It was Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who acted as go-between for the work's creation. The commission took on notable importance being as it was at the center of diplomatic relations between Rome and London. It formed part of the Vatican's attempt to bring a "heretic" England back into the bosom of the Catholic Church. It marked a very special moment in the papacy of Urban VIII Barberini, brought to fruition by Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who was indeed the "cardinal nephew". The ascent to the throne of Charles I had in fact opened the prospect of restoring closer friendly relations with the kingdom of England, separated for some time from the Church of Rome, in view of the King’s marriage, contracted in 1626, to the sixteen year old sister of Louis XIII, a Catholic. The desire expressed by Henrietta Maria for a large painting that would adorn the ceiling of the King’s bedroom offered the opportunity for Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who had already sent his agents to the English court, to weave a web of relationships that would be exemplified in this highly symbolic work of art.
Following the religious wars that in 1649 would lead to the beheading of Charles I, the Queen had taken refuge in France, where Cardinal Barberini was also temporarily exiled in 1646 after the death of Urban VIII. The unfortunate Queen, however, was soon forced to sell the magnificent work to Michel Particelli d'Emery, superintendent of finances of the Kingdom of France, on whose death his widow, outraged by the nudity that the painting exhibited, had it cut to pieces by her servants.
The present painting therefore is another large fragment of the original, like the Ariadne and Cupid, identified in 2002 and now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna.
Moretti Fine Art
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Online Catalogue edited by
June 14, 2017