← Marie Antoinette Portraits
Marie Antoinette looks very innocent in this portrait, from her glowing, translucent skin to her sleepy gaze. She gives just a hint of a smile, with her head centered and looking right at the viewer. This gives the feeling that Marie Antoinette is approachable, almost erasing the difference in rank between her and the viewer. The painting, which was most likely painted around 1770, reflects a time in her life when she had to become “Frenchified” and explains why she looks naïve. Though she has the outward appearance of someone in the French court, on the inside she is still just a young girl.
It is hard not to marvel at Marie Antoinette’s radiance despite the washed-out colors, which contribute to her pure appearance by bringing out the white hue of her skin. The background is a simple, dark color that contrasts with her white skin and focuses the picture solely on Marie Antoinette. In 1770, Empress Maria Theresa would have sent Marie Antoinette off to France to marry Louis-Auguste, so representing her purity and innocence was crucial. Considering that this portrait was probably sent to France so Louis XV and his diplomats could determine if Marie Antoinette would make a good Dauphine, the impression of innocence and the way attention is drawn to her in the portrait would have served her well.
Marie Antoinette’s clothing is intricately patterned, with bows and lace hugging her fragile figure. Her costume undoubtedly represents the latest French trend (as a part of her French makeover). The bows contain many pleats, they circle her neck and run down the front of the bosom. The top bow in front of her bosom, especially large, may have been useful in covering up Marie Antoinette’s developing breasts from the eyes of Louis XV who would not have found them satisfactory. Both the lace and bows look made of heavy material, possibly indicating social status and the glory of French fashion. The lace is especially elaborate in its patterns, contrasting the unadorned blue fabric of the rest of the dress to give the ensemble a feminine allure. Her rouged cheeks and powdered hair woven in a fancy pattern imbue the portrait with elegance by enhancing Marie Antoinette’s youthful features while also embracing how the ladies of the French court dressed. The oval shape of the frame, which mimics the gentle slope of Marie Antoinette’s shoulders and face, further enhances the overall elegant effect of the portrait.
Very nice description that focuses as well on the political role of this portrait–to persuade Louis XV that Marie Antoinette looked French enough and thereby promised to acculturate herself to her role as French queen.
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