About the Mazarinettes
The Mazarinettes were the seven Italian nieces of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602 – 1661), hence this surname. They were the daughters of two of his four sisters.
Cardinal Mazarin, himself also of Italian origin, succeeded to Cardinal Richelieu (1585 – 1642) as the Chief Minister of France during the youth of King Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) from 1642 until his death in 1661.
The cardinal had his nieces, two Martinozzi and five Mancini, come over from Italy at different times between 1647 and 1653, when they were all still fairly young, aged between six and thirteen.
The cardinal used these nieces (and also three nephews) to enlarge his power and influence in the highest circles of French and Italian society.
There is not that much to say about the Martinozzi sisters: both Laura (1635 – 1687) and Anne Marie (1637 – 1672) married well.
As to the five Mancini sisters they became public society figures and a very popular subject of portrait painting: some were really beautiful, but all of them were exotic, dark eyed, young, intellectual, bright, charming, independent, fascinating and therefore popular; they al married well.
• Laura Mancini (1636–1657) got married at the age of fifteen and died aged twenty-one as a result of childbirth. Her youngest sister brought up her children while her husband retired from public life to become a cardinal.
• Olympia Mancini (1638–1708) married at the age of nineteen Count Eugène Maurice of Savoy. She became the Queen’s household intendant and was known for her involvement in various intrigues, which lead to her expulsion not only from France but later also from Spain. A lot has been whispered about her: she was the mistress of the Sun King, she had a lesbian relationship with his sister-in-law, Henriette Anne, she probably poisoned her own husband and also Queen Maria Luisa of Spain, who was the daughter of Henriette Anne.
• Marie Mancini (1639–1715), although considered to be the least beautiful of the sisters, bewildered young King Louis XIV so much that he wanted to marry her. The young couple was finally separated for political reasons by the king’s mother, Queen Anne, and by Cardinal Mazarin, who exiled his niece first within France and after the king’s marriage with Maria Theresa of Spain (1660) back to Italy where she was to get married in 1661 with Prince Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna. After the birth of her third child she copied her husband’s infidel behaviour. After her younger sister, Hortense, joined her in Italy, she fled from home, leaving her husband and her children behind. Both sisters then travelled together through Europe. Marie wrote a book about her own life.
• Hortense Mancini (1646–1699) was the beauty of the family and the favourite niece of the cardinal. At the age of fifteen she married one of the richest men in Europe, Armand Charles de La Porte de La Meilleraye. He was fifteen years older, had a miserable character, was completely deranged and mistreated his wife. Still the couple had four children, but Hortense began a lesbian love affair, she was sent to a convent by her husband and finally fled to her sister Marie in Rome, leaving her young children behind. At the specific demand of the English ambassador in France she travelled to England in 1675 to try and take the place of King Charles’ II mistress, Louise de Kerouaille. In 1659, before his reinstallation following the death of Cromwell, the king had already proposed to Hortense in vain; the refusal of this marriage was a huge mistake of her uncle, Cardinal Mazarin. In a few months time Hortense was able to become the king’s new official mistress, but Hortense’s promiscuous behaviour with women and men rapidly made her lose the king’s favour. After the king’s death in 1685 she remained in England, where she was called ‘the Italian whore’. She ran a literary salon that became best known for its gambling tables. Hortense was very rich, extravagant and immoral. She also wrote her memoirs.
• Marie Anne Mancini (1649–1717) was the youngest of the sisters. She was witty and beautiful. When her eldest sister, Laure, died she was given her three sons to raise: she was eight years old, just a few years older than her nephews. At the age of fourteen she married Godefroy Maurice de La Tour d'Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon. She ran a sophisticated cultural salon in Paris for writers and artists. Rumour said that she had planned to poison her husband, but she was never sentenced.
About Diane-Gabrielle Damas de Thianges Mancini
Diane-Gabrielle (1656 – 1715) was well-known for her beauty. She was the sister-in-law of the Mancini sisters.
In 1670, at the age of fourteen, she married Philippe Mancini (1641 – 1707; also known as Philippe Julien or Philippe Jules), the twenty-nine year old Duke of Nevers, nephew of the deceased Cardinal Mazarin and brother of the Mancini sisters (his two brothers died at a young age).
Philippe and Diane-Gabrielle had six children, two of whom died young. Although her aunt, the duchess de Montespan, tried twice to force her to become the mistress of King Louis XIV, she refused each time, because she loved her husband and also because she faired his jealous character.
Three of the Mancini sisters actually were at some stage mistresses of the King: Olympia, Marie and Hortense; as were of course the duchess of Montespan and also her sister, the mother of Diane Gabrielle.
Philippe died in 1707, Diane-Gabrielle in 1715.
Before his marriage Philippe Mancini is said to have been the first homosexual friend of Monsieur (1640 – 1701), the brother of King Louis XIV. It seems that his uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, had even commandeered Philippe to de-flower him. Queen Anne of Austria and the Cardinal hoped that by encouraging Gaston’s tendency to homosexuality and feminine behaviour, Monsieur would never be a threat to his brother, the King, as had been a generation earlier Gaston, Duke of Orleans to his brother King Louis XIII.
In 1657 (at the age of 16) Philippe became the captain-lieutenant of the Mousquetaires du Roi. He rarely accompanied the musketeers in battle and, from 1658 onwards, the actual control of his troops was in the hands of the Count d’Artagnan, who succeeded Philippe officially as captain-lieutenant in 1667. In 1844 Alexandre Dumas wrote his famous novel ‘The three Musketeers’.
After the death of Cardinal Mazarin Philippe Mancini inherited a fortune and he and his wife travelled a lot, making long sojourns in Rome, where our portrait must have been painted.
About Jacob Ferdinand Voet
Antwerp 1639 – 1689 Paris
Sometimes he is also referred to as Ferdinand Voet.
It is not known whom Voet studied with in Antwerp. According to the RKD at The Hague he was the son of a further unknown painter called Elias Voet.
He had an international career: he worked mainly in Italy, especially in Rome, and the last (probably three) years of his life in Paris as an official portrait painter to King Louis XIV.
Voet is known as one of the best and most fashionable portrait painters of the Late Baroque.
Between 1663 and 1678 he lived in Rome, where he integrated perfectly, working for the Papal court and cardinals, for all of the Roman aristocratic families and for foreign, mostly English and Scottish, noblemen who made their cultural Grand Tour. During and after his Roman years he also regularly worked in other Northern Italian towns (Genoa, Florence, Modena, Parma, Como, Milan). Voet was known in Italy as Monsu Ferdinando or as Ferdinando de’ ritratti.
His major patrons in Rome were the Chigi family and also prince Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and his wife Maria Mancini.
Voet is best known for his iconic portraits of Queen Christina of Sweden of circa 1670 and of the Mancini sisters, especially of Marie and of Hortense: half-length sensual portraits with particular attention to decorative details of hair and clothing. Based on the series of portraits of the Mancini sisters he also painted a series of 37 portraits of the most enchanting women of Rome (‘Galleria delle Belle’), the first one between 1672 and 1678 for Cardinal Chigi’s dining room in his palace in Ariccia (in the Alban hills outside Rome), which he later copied and even enlarged for other Roman and Italian noble families.
Voet was a member of the Schildersbent, a society of Dutch, Flemish, a few German and a single French painter, all of them active in Rome.
It was founded in or circa 1623.
Its members were called the ‘Bentvueghels’ (“group of birds”). Although created as a support for compatriots it soon became well known for its rather convivial meetings, in so far that in 1720 this joyful society was forbidden by papal decree for too many feasts had ended in the greatest disorder.
At the start of 1678 Voet was expelled from Rome by the conservative Pope Innocent XI because of his libertine life style and for his portraits of women with “large décolleté”.
He stayed during a few years in several Italian towns and in Piedmont, in Turin, where he worked for the Savoy and their court.
After a short spell in Lyon and in Antwerp he finally settled in Paris, where he started a very interesting new career. He obtained the title of court painter of King Louis XIV, but was sadly found dead at his home near the Pont Neuf in Paris, only aged fifty.
About our painting
Jacob Ferdinand Voet was a very successful portrait painter. He therefore had to use assistants who would help him, especially in painting the different large series of the most beautiful women of Rome.
It is therefore but normal that there is a price difference between the works authenticated by Dr. Francesco Petrucci, such as ours, and the many weaker workshop paintings that flood the art market. Dr. Petrucci is the author of the monograph on Voet and he is also the curator of the Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia, outside Rome. The Chigi family were Voet’s most important patrons: it is for them that he painted, without the help of assistants, the first series of 37 Roman beauties of the Galleria delle Belle, which is still in the Palazzo Chigi.
Professor Petrucci states that in our painting Diane-Gabrielle is represented as Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love. One needed indeed a mythological excuse to overtly paint such a sensuous woman’s portrait. It is actually because of such portraits that Pope Innocent XI expelled Voet from Rome in 1678.
Diane-Gabrielle Damas de Thianges Mancini can be considered as the sixth Mancini: having married their brother Philippe she was their only sister-in-law, for Paul and Alphonse Mancini died already aged 14 and 16.
In contrast to her sisters-in-law Diane-Gabrielle’s life does not read like a roller coaster ride, but she was probably even more beautiful than the Mancini-sisters.
The portraits of the Mancini sisters and of Diane-Gabrielle are real icons of starlets of those days. Voet painted a large number of their portraits, his assistants and followers even more.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is an authenticated portrait of Jacob Ferdinand Voet, one of the best portrait painters of the Late Baroque.
Because it is such a sensuous representation of one of the most beautiful women at the court of King Louis XIV, a member of the infamous Mancini clan.