For nearly two decades Cardinal Jules Mazarin was the de facto ruler of France and the most powerful person in Europe. Born in Italy in 1602, he worked as a Papal diplomat but offered his services to Cardinal Richelieu and moved to Paris in 1640. When Richelieu died in 1642, he acted as the head the government for the Queen Regent and the young Louis XIV and played an important role in helping to end the Thirty Years War through the peace of Westphalia (1648). As an important patron of the arts he introduced opera to Paris, founded the first public library in France, and by the time of his death in 1661 had acquired one of the greatest art collection in Europe. In addition to many other valuable pieces of art, his collection consisted of 858 paintings, including works by Poussin, Rubens, Correggio, Carracci, Van Dyck, Titian, and Raphael.
Just before his death, he visited his gallery with the Count of Brienne and said: “Look, my good friend, at this beautiful painting by Correggio and also at the Venus by Titian, and that incomparable Deluge by Annibale Carracci. Oh, my poor friend, I must leave all this behind. Farewell, dear pictures that I have loved so well and that have cost me so much. What terrible efforts it has cost me to acquire these things. Can I leave them? Can I abandon them without regret? … I shan’t see them anymore where I am going.”
Three paintings from the Louvre—Correggio’s The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine (above), Carracci’s The Flood (right, top), and Titian’s Pardo Venus (right, bottom). The Pardo Venus is also known as Jupiter and Antiope.
GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief