← Marie Antoinette Portraits
Here is a woman who looks as if she’s not of a high social rank. With her simple dress and bonnet, the woman in the cart looks quite underdressed. Her sharp frown, deep-set wrinkles, and saggy skin add years to her appearance. And her hair is cut right up to her ears – a daring fashion statement if it had not been for her current situation. Instead, her hair has been cut in preparation for the guillotine for long hair can snag and prevent a successful execution. Furthermore, her arms are tightly held behind her back so that resistance is futile. At first glance, it is hard to believe that this average, old woman is Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France and Europe’s foremost fashion icon. And yet, upon further examination, she still looks dignified, given her predicament – with her eyes pointing downward, her chin pointing upwards, and sitting upright, she seems to still retain the essence and ingrained training of a rightful queen.
This profile is not as elaborately rendered as the many other portraits of Marie Antoinette. Unlike other images, this one looks hand drawn, hinting that the artist’s tool was a pencil or an ink pen. Moreover, only she is drawn, and not her surroundings – which focuses the viewer’s attention solely on Marie Antoinette. One can surmise that the artist drew quickly because her cropped hair, her tied hands, and her seat indicate that this sketch was drawn moments before the execution, when she was still in the cart taking her to the guillotine The artist must have gotten only a fleeting impression of Marie Antoinette before she was executed a short while after. Capturing the last minutes of her life, the artist effectively portrays how far Marie has fallen from her crowning moments and how much she has retained of her dignity to the end of her days.
The celebrated painter David sketched this last “portrait” of Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine. And you are right to note that the sketch was done swiflty. Despite her coarse clothes, her lack of corset, her chopped-off hair, she retains her dignity and the posture of a Queen.
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