Sometimes we just need a break from painting. In art school there was always a funny tension between painters and sculptors, although I can't tell you why!
Here are some works that represent Marie Antoinette in various mediums: marble, stone, terracotta etc. They really are quite lovely, and the likenesses are intriguing. I am particularly taken with the hairstyles!
The first image below includes both carved pearls and feathers, and I also admire the detail in the necklace with a miniature of Louis XVI on it. The image on the left is located in San Denis.
Pajou, Augustin. Marie Antoinette
Lecomte, Felix. Marie Antoinette
Boizot, Louis-Simon. Marie Antoinette (1781)
Marie Antoinette. 1783, marble. Louvre.
Gaucher, Christine. Marie Antoinette. 2006, terracotta.
Tibble, Antonia. Marie Antoinette #1. 2009.
Tibble, Antonia. Marie Antoinette. 2009.
Meyer Vaisman, Untitled Turkey XVII (Marie Antoinette). 1992
If you have been following the Marie Antoinette spike on Twitter, it is largely due to a recent controversy over the First Lady, Michelle Obama. In a recent piece in the NY Daily News, she has been compared to the famous Queen of France.
"Instead, Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette - the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects' plight - than an average mother of two. While she's spent her time in the White House telling parents they should relieve their chubby kids' dependency on sugar and stressing the importance of an organic veggie garden, hopping a jet to Europe to meet with Spanish royalty isn't the visual the White House probably wants to project."
Upon Louis XV's death, a stunned Marie Antoinette and now Louis XVI stood in their inner apartments of Versailles. Famously, they asked God to guide them because of the disadvantage of their youth. Of course, a court does not wait for prayers or thought; there was proper etiquette to be carried out right away.
The Comtesse de Noailles, or as Antoinette referred to, Madame Etiquette, was the first to approach the dismayed couple with instructions on what to do next. As etiquette demanded, they were to make their way to the Grand Salon. Once their they had to receive visits from those royal princes who had to pay homage to the new King and Queen.
Naturally, performing such a task was tough at that time. To those first in line, Marie Antoinette was introduced as the new Queen of France leaning weakly upon her husband with a handkerchief constantly up to her eyes and nose.
That evening the court left for Choisy, and a carriage was called for the new King, his Queen, his siblings and his sister in law, the comtesse d'Artois. No one was older than twenty in that carriage. Naturally, though grieving, and full of anticipation of what might happen next, the party all succumbed to laughter after the comtesse d'Artois mispronounced a word, striking a funny bone in everyone.
I am going to try a new format. Decorative arts are easy to love or hate, but let's try a comparison. Which do you prefer and why? The attention to detail was quite extraordinary in 18th century furniture.
I posted close up images so you could see the details better! Now, which piece do you prefer and why? What would you have in your château??
Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené, Louis-François Chatard, Armchair . French, 1788, walnut, gold, cotton twill, silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Georges Jacob, (upholstery style of: Philippe de Lasalle, Armchair, French. 1780-85,
Carved and gilded walnut, covered in embroidered silk-satin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"For five months, not a farmer has made his appearance in the markets of this town. Such a circumstance was never known before, although from time to time, high prices have prevailed to a considerable extent. On the contrary, the markets were always well supplied in proportion to the high price of grain."
Letter of the municipal assembly of Louviers, August 1789 "Archives Nationales," D. xxix I.
Jean-Baptiste Greuze. The man, the myth...the talented painter was born in 1725 in Tournus, his family was not rich, but lower middle class. He began to draw when he was very young, and would leave drawings all over the place! But the idea of earning a living as an artist was not well received by his father. It seemed entirely out of the question. As a nice compromise, as his son clearly had a bit of artistic talent, he was set up to be an apprentice to an architect. You can guess how this worked out.
One day he gave his father a gift, a portrait of St. James' head. (To be fair it was given on St. James' Day). The portrait showed the command of young Greuze's talent, full of life and dimension. It was a lucky day for the young artist, his father knew then his son had the gift of 'genius'/ true artistic talent!
He was set up with an apprenticeship at the workshop of the artist Grandon in Lyons, where he jumped into his training program. He took full advantage. All the drawings created at this workshop were sent out and sold, and there was less emphasis on fine art and more of a push for marketable art. Quick sales, mass sales. As soon as his time there ended he headed off to Paris. This could easily have gone either way...like a modern New York, you could loose everything or gain everything. He was quite determined to climb the ladder of success.
While in Paris he practiced great industry, attended the academy everyday, took lessons from Charles Joesph Natoire, and in his spare time created works to be sold so that he could afford to live. He did not make much money but was doing what he loved, and he believed he was growing as an artist. One day, as the story goes, Natoire gave him a critique of his work, which he did not want to hear. Sharply, Greuze responded something along the lines of oh you only wish you could paint figures like this! *shock *gasp
As you can imagine, Natoire was not a big fan after that. In fact, he was not well received anywhere! In 1755, at the age of 30, he finally caught the attention of the academy. Works such as Aveugle trompé and Le Père de famille expliquant la Bible à ses enfants. Why did these works catch the eyes of the art community?
Greuze was painting in a style uniquely his own at the time. He took a little from Boucher, a little from Watteau, and added a bit of Rousseau and Voltaire in the mix. Rather than creating light-hearted scenes of pleasure and frivolity, his images focused on human spirit. Even in a very subtle way, his figures conveyed thought, feeling, and emotion.
His subjects, the class portrayed, were not often found in fine art at the time. This very fact made his works genuine and unique. They were milkmaids, laundresses, working class people. They were decorated, stripped down, and thoughtful. His figures suffered, felt sorrow, felt joy, and laughed. They were well received by aristocrats who had begun the desire for a new style. A more simple style, back-to-basics way of life. In this way Greuze was not only innovated but a trend-maker.
There is a large 18th century court that has existed and is continuously being developed on Second Life. A recent achievement is the new Chateau de Versailles, which is being constructed with incredible detail, all the way to the texture of stone work.
Interestingly enough, the owners of the Chateau de Versailles in Second Life have allowed a movie to be filmed there. Based on Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus" there Mozart fans will be pleased to know a new film is going to be released soon! This August we can expect to be the first to watch Amadeus like you have never seen it before.
Check out the teaser trailer below. Things I noticed right away: attention to detail! The afternoon tea looks amazing and the lady holding the fluffy dog is amusing.
While the French Revolution unfolded, it was increasingly dangerous for the members of the aristocracy to stay in France.
Many became emigres and fled to places of refuge such as Coblentz or London. While Marie Antoinette was separated from her best friend the princesse de Lamballe, she would often write her letters, tinged with a certain lack of hope.
The following is a letter from Marie Antoinette to the princesse de Lamballe dated 13 October:
"I am broken-hearted at what I see passing around me, and can only entreat you not to come back. The present moment is too terrible. Although I have courage enough on my own account, I cannot help feeling uneasy for my friends, more especially for one so precious as you. I do not, therefore, wish you to expose yourself uselessly to danger. It is already as much as I can do to face circumstances calmly at the side of the King and my children. Farewell then dear heart! Give me your pity, since, from the very love I bear you, your absence is perhaps a greater trial to me than it is to you."
Here are some old photographs that were taken of Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon. There is something quite interesting viewing old photographs, even though they are one hundred and fifty years older than the architecture itself. This first one is a particular favourite of mine!
Interior view of Marie-Antoinette's bedroom, Palais de Petit Trianon, Versailles. Circa 1885-1905, gelatin silver prints.
Petit Trianon Staircase, Palais de Petit Trianon, Versailles. Circa 1945 and 1970, photograph. Wayne Andrews Archive.
Petit Trianon Salon de compagnie, Palais de Petit Trianon, Versailles. Circa1945 and 1984, photograph. Wayne Andrews Archive.
Petit Trianon Exterior, facade and fountain. Photograph. National Gallery of Art.
As Queen of France, Marie Antoinette had spent a lot of her time enjoying lazy days at her Petit Trianon. Walking through the gardens and visiting the Petit Hameau were just some activities she would take part in while there. Inside Petit Trianon she had her own library, a modest collection of classic and modern titles.
For some time she would schedule a small part of her day aside to spend in the library. It was her hope to cultivate her mind, and supplement her education by studying and reading. The idea was noble. After several failed attempts to be secluded and uninterrupted, she gave up on her scholarly pursuits.
In Slough she was able to see the telescope designed by William Herschel. She visited Bath, and tasted its warm healing waters. At Richmond she supped with the Duke of Queensberry. She also visited Brighton to enjoy the sea. Her arrival created a stir, and did not escape the tabloids.
She dined with England's bon ton, travelled with them and attended their parties. She was certainly more warmly welcomed than the duchesse de Polignac, as seen by this article:
The Princesse de Lamballe with her suite accompanied by the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Duncannon, and other ladies of distinction, conducted by his Grace the Duke of Richmond, the principal officers of the Artillery and others of high rank, and attended by Sir Peter Burrell and other gentlemen of fortune known to her Highness abroad visited the Royal Academy at Woolwich and was present at a field day of the Royal Artillery After seeing manoeuvres with guns small aims mortars &c., they visited the Prince, 90 guns, a new man of war, just completed and ready to launch. Her Highness expressed the utmost admiration at everything shown her on that magnificent ship."
Surely the duchess de Polignac would have expressed the utmost boredom at being shown a war ship!