Marie Antoinette en gaulle

16 March 2010

Detail from one of the most famous portraits of Marie Antoinette, which was painted by Madame Vigée-Lebrun in 1783. This portrait depicts the 27 year old Queen of France in her favourite outfit, a simple ruffled muslin gown, tied at the waist with a gauze sash and teamed with a ribbon bedecked straw hat. She is posed as though picking roses in her beloved gardens at the Petit Trianon and her gaze is both direct and enquiring, although not unfriendly.

This painting caused a sensation when it was displayed at the prestigious Paris Salon of 1783. Marie Antoinette and Madame Vigée-Lebrun, both young women whose minds were full of romance and idealistic ideas of the simplicity and virtue of private life were fixated on the lack of etiquette in the painting, in the lack of heavy court gowns and jewels, in its charm and honesty. The critics and populace at large, however were rather less charmed and saw in the lack of Queenly decoration and etiquette, a quite deplorable lesé majesté that acted as a metaphor for the gradual erosion of the dignity of both France and its royal family.

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