Eugene Siberdt (Belgian, 1851- 1931), Farewell Dear France – Adieux à la Chère France, 15 août 1561, oil on canvas, signed and dated lower left Eug. Siberdt/Anv[ers] 1923, 55.5″ x 39.5″
Eugene Siberdt, born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1851, was an academically-trained painter of portraits, historical subjects, religious subjects, and genre scenes. He studied at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts with master teachers and artists, Dujardin, Beaufaux, Van Leprous and De Keyser.
In 1873 he was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome (Second Place), and starting in 1874, Siberdt exhibited quite successfully at all the important Belgian venues. He concentrated quite a bit on portraiture and was given the title of Official Royal Portraitist. In 1883 he was appointed a professor at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts.
The subject of this dramatic painting is the moment when Mary Queen of Scots departed from her beloved France after the death of her husband, King Francis II of France, who was the victim of a brain tumor. As an eighteen-year-old widow and a foreign Queen in her own right, Mary Stuart (who had been named Queen of Scotland at age six following the death of her father James V) had no option but to return to her native Scotland where her French-born mother had been serving as Regent. Upon her return, it became immediately apparent that Mary had no knowledge of her own country, spoke French and very little English, and was a spoiled and indulged princess of the French court. Her reign was disastrous for she knew little of the affairs of state and had neither the temperament nor training for rule.
Eugene Siberdt based this ambitious painting of the embarkation of Marie Stuart upon a famous disembarkation painting by fellow Fleming, Peter Paul Rubens – Marie de Medici meeting Henry IV at Marseilles (1622-25). In both Rubens’ and Siberdt’s paintings, the strong diagonal composition within a vertical format shows the respective queens dominating the top portion of the design. Rubens’ work would have been available to Siberdt for firsthand study in Paris, in the permanent collection of the Louvre.