Gabrielle d'Estrées and One of Her Sisters
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The presumed subject of the painting Gabrielle d'Estrées et une de ses soeurs by an unknown artist (c.1594), is Gabrielle d'Estrées, mistress of King Henry IV of France. In the painting, Gabrielle sits up nude in a bath, holding (assumedly) Henry's coronation ring, whilst her sister sits nude beside her and pinches her right nipple. Henry gave Gabrielle the ring as a token of his love shortly before she died.
The painting is a symbolic announcement anticipating the birth of Gabrielle's first child with Henry IV, César de Bourbon. Her maternity is expressed in three ways: her sister pinches the source of the new mother's milk, the servant in the background knits in preparation for the child, and the fire in the fireplace signifies the mother's furnace. The love between Gabrielle and Henry IV is expressed by the painting within a painting of a love scene on the back wall and by the coronation ring.
This painting is interesting in that everything is peculiarly left-handedly-biased. Gabrielle's sister is pinching her right nipple with her left hand, d'Estrées is holding what is said to be King Henry IV of France’s coronation ring with her left hand, and the seamstress in the background is sewing with her left hand. Additionally, the painting hanging in the background is of the lower body of a naked person, but contrary to rumor, he is not holding his penis with his left hand. A piece of red fabric is draped over his genitals.
The painting now hangs at the Louvre Museum in Paris.