The Queen

Marie Louise Gonzaga (1611-1667), duchess of Mantua and Nevers, future queen of Poland, grew up in the family estate in Burgundy. Her godfather was Louis XIII (1601-1643), the king of France, only a decade older than her. Her hand in marriage was sought in 1627 by the king’s brother Gaston, Duke of Orléans (1608-1660) and in 1634 – Władysław IV Waza. In both cases, without success.

Before she became Louise Marie (such name she accepted at the coronation) and the queen of Poland, the fate of Mantuan Duchess was strictly subordinated to France’s foreign policy. Louis XIII severely manifested his power over her – as a monarch and semi-guardian – against the plans to marriage between her and his younger brother. Sixteen-year-old Marie was sent away for three years, first to the imprisonment of Vincennes castle and then to the monastery. The plans to marry the Polish monarch were achieved only the second time, in 1645, after the death of his first wife from the Habsburg family.

Justus van Egmont, Portrait of Marie Louise Gonzaga, future queen of Poland, 1645, National Museum in Warsaw

This year, a betrothal portrait of thirty-four years old Marie Louise Gonzaga was made by Justus van Egmont (1601-1673). According to the standards of the era, she was already a mature woman at that point. Meanwhile, the artist chose a formula that refers to youth, vitality and fertility. He showed the duchess as a nymph, in a gauzy and rich dress, strolling through an orange grove. The symbolism of blossoming and fruiting orange trees evokes values ​​such as love, fertility and abundance. The picture probably was a gift for the royal spouse brought by Mantuan Duchess herself.

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