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Ruben's Life of Marie de Medici by Jacques Thuillair. 158 pages, plus 108 color pages. Abrams. $125. In 1622 history's richest and most lavish painter was retained by the vainest and most powerful woman in France to create an appropriate tribute to herself. The result —more than a score of enormous panels—now fills a whole room of the Louvre. There visitors are free to ramble past acres of pearly, naked flesh and hectares of jewels and velvet, observing Marie, attended by nymphs, monsters, peacocks, courtiers, gods, satyrs and angels, as she...

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