Marie Antoinette Portraits

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  1. nturriago says:

    This intimate portrait offers more insight in understanding the type of woman Marie Antoinette was, rather than merely showcasing her unquestioned superiority as the Queen of France. Painted from where she sits in her bedroom—her canopy bed can be spotted to the upper right—this scene depicts Marie’s morning ritual of getting dressed for the day. The intended viewer for this personal scene was someone close to Marie Antoinette: , perhaps Louis XVI or a member of Marie’s family. This portrait was painted at the peak beginning of Marie’s life as Queen, before her name became associated with negative connotations.

    Wearing a loose morning dressing gown, Marie has yet to embody the extravagant appearance that she would become known for as Queen. For her morning toilette, the table next to her proves necessary. Laden with a variety of supplies—a mirror, an array of feathers, and other hair accessories—her hairdressers, the two men seated directly behind Marie with combs in their hair, are successfully equipped for this momentous task.

    Though the ritual of getting ready is associated with privacy, this was never the case for Marie Antoinette. Members of her court already surround her, despite the early hour. To her left are fellow nobles, already adorned in rich fabrics of vivacious colors. One young woman—most likely a lady in waiting– leans forward toward Marie, displaying some sheet music she wants to hear her Queen play. Behind the table of hair accessories are the three aunts, or the granddaughters of Louis XV. They stand towards the back of the room and grow fainter as they progress—the third sister, for example, is very hard to distinguish from the shadows. Towards the right of the Marie is a musician reading sheet music. Perhaps he will soon join Marie in an informal morning concert, or maybe he will instruct her on how to perfect her harp playing. The variety of her companions show the true extent of how public Marie’s life was. Despite the personal morning routine, Marie is unable to enjoy a moment of refuge from the constantly watching eyes of the court. Even her husband Louis XVI is in the room: a small portrait of him hangs high on the wall behind Marie Antoinette, a reminder that though he is not physically present, he still looks on.

    At the bottom right of this scene is the painter himself. Although the viewer cannot fully see his face, the painter’s palette, sword, and canvas are all clearly visible. The artist’s decision to include himself in the portrait makes the scene feel more real, rather than a formal, stiff portrait that requires much posing.

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