Marie-Antoinette: the destiny of a Queen

Maria Theresa of Austria and family

Maria Theresa of Austria and family

The Marie-Antoinette exhibition at the Grand Palais was so vast and complex that I wanted to let my impressions settle a bit before consigning them to cyberspace.

The part of Marie-Antoinette’s life that was least familiar to me was her childhood in Vienna. In this regard the exhibition does a very good job of evoking of it through many paintings and a few carefully selected objects. What struck me was how family-oriented the Lorraine-Hapsburgs were, and wished to appear.

Of course imperial propaganda had probably much to do with it, but many of these family paintings in ordinary settings, those portraits of the imperial children seem to reflect genuine parental pride and care. Nothing equivalent is found in the French Court at the time.

Marie Antoinette child dancing

Marie Antoinette child dancing

Marie-Antoinette, the youngest girl of a family of sixteen children, seems to have enjoyed a very happy childhood in the relatively relaxed atmosphere of the Hapsburg court. This explains her difficulties in adapting to the far more formal setting of Versailles.

Marie-Antoinette is a pawn in a game of international alliances of which at first she does not seem to grasp the import. We soon reach the formalities of her wedding to the Dauphin, future Louis XVI.

Marie-Antoinette’s original marriage certificate is displayed. There is an ink stain next to her signature (did she make it herself?) and she misspelled the French form of her name. She signed Marie Antoinette Josèphe Janne, instead of the proper spelling of Jeanne, which is found in body of the certificate itself. Marie-Antoinette was not, to put it mildly, an attentive student, nor was French spelling ever her friend.

Another striking thing about this document is the list of the persons who signed as witnesses: King Louis XV himself, of course, but also, among other family members, Madame Adélaïde, who had just coined the phrase “The Austrian Woman,” her sister Madame Victoire, and the Duc de Chartres, future Duc d’Orléans, future Philippe-Egalité, who would vote, twenty years later, in favor of the execution of the groom, his cousin. Chilling. It would have deserved a few words of explanation in the notice next to the case.

Marie Antoinette Ducreux

Marie Antoinette Ducreux

We see some artifacts linked to the wedding itself. There is a glaring omission here: the catastrophe during the festivities in Paris on that occasion. Fireworks near the present-day Place de la Concorde caused a panic movement in the crowd, and hundreds were trampled to death. This was interpreted by public opinion as a sinister omen.

Then the exhibition’s timeline skip ten years, from the arrival in Versailles of the fourteen-year old Dauphine whom the aging Louis XV describes as “lively and very childish” to the popular rejoicing at the birth of the first Dauphin, Louis-Joseph. Again, this is a strange omission, because I believe these ten years missing from the narrative sealed Marie-Antoinette’s fate. This is when she alienated many courtiers and lost the love of the common people through her thoughtless and willful behavior, her passion for gambling, spending and generally having her own way about everything.

In the exhibition, the only hints that everything is not quite right are excerpts, posted in several rooms, from Maria Theresa’s letters admonishing her daughter to be more serious in her pursuits and more affectionate towards her husband. Maria Theresa was right, of course, but being her daughter must not always have been easy.

The best part of the show is probably the collection of portraits of Marie-Antoinette, both painted and sculpted. In one of the rooms, you have three different busts of Marie-Antoinette as a grown woman displayed together, from different angles. I had seen individual busts of the Queen, in particular the famous one by Houdon at Versailles, but I had never experienced anything like this. Marie-Antoinette simply came to life before my eyes!

I felt exactly like Gabrielle, my heroine, when she first met Marie-Antoinette: if ever a woman looked like a queen, this one did. Her nose was prominent, aquiline, far more so than in any of her painted portraits, and her head was thrown back in a proud, willful fashion. A physically impressive, imposing woman. I was able to imagine what it must have felt to find oneself in her presence.

Marie Antoinette court dress Vigee Lebrun

Marie Antoinette court dress Vigee Lebrun

Across the room is the great portrait in Court dress by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. It was meant as a gift to Empress Maria Theresa. Marie-Antoinette was so pleased with it that Madame Lebrun became her favorite portraitist. But, as I mentioned earlier, neither Madame Lebrun nor less able painters captured Marie-Antoinette’s image as well as sculptors did.

I also take issue with the display of very poor copies of Madame Vigée-Lebrun’s Marie-Antoinette en gaulle, and the fine portrait of the Queen with her children by Wertmüller. The dismal quality of the copies is an insult to the originals. I understand that those were unavailable (the Wertmüller in particular was deemed too fragile to travel) but decent reproductions would have done much better.

The “Agent of Austria” part of the exhibit did not do much for me, though it emphasized the fact that Marie-Antoinette, to many French people, was the enemy within. I would have liked to see a portrait there of the Count de Mercy-Argenteau, Ambassador of Austria to the French Court and Maria Theresa’s most able and dedicated spy. The least of Marie-Antoinette’s faux pas never escaped his notice, nor did he fail to report it to Maria Theresa. Yet Mercy-Argenteau was nowhere in sight, though excerpts from his letters were quoted more than once.

Where the exhibition shines, apart from the remarkable collection portraits of Marie-Antoinette, is in the display of the furniture and objects ordered by the Queen for her private apartments in various palaces and châteaux. There are pieces of extraordinary refinement and luxury, for instance the astonishing mother-of-pearl furniture made for the Queen’s boudoir in Fontainebleau.

The bronzes and furnishings dating from a few years before the Revolution are simply amazing in detail. For her bedroom in Trianon, the Queen did not want gilded wood any more. She ordered furniture that was exquisitely carved to imitate wicker interwoven with floral motifs. A search for simplicity in the utmost luxury. For a reason that is not entirely clear to me, the organizers of the exhibits chose to display these pieces in the middle of theater sets.

How not to compare the light, delicate, delightful jewelry case, inlaid with porcelain, Marie-Antoinette was given as a teenage Dauphine, and the new one, of monumental proportions, she orders years later? Indeed she has purchased many jewels in the meantime.

And precisely trouble comes from another piece of jewelry Marie-Antoinette never wanted, owned or wore: the famous necklace incorrectly known as the Queen’s Necklace. A white saphire copy of the infamous jewel is there (the original was sold diamond by diamond by the husband of the swindler, the false Countess de Lamotte.) One has to agree with Marie-Antoinette on this point: this was a truly hideous piece of jewelry.

This part of the exhibit is announced by a a large broken mirror. This, I suppose, is a metaphor for the fact that the Queen’s already tarnished reputation was shattered by the Affair of the Necklace. A few words of explanation on the scandal would have been more helpful for most visitors, and I, for one, could have done without this bit of melodrama. The story of Marie-Antoinette is compelling enough without the need for such over-the-top touches.

Marie Antoinette children Vigee Lebrun

Marie Antoinette and her children Vigee Lebrun

Would not it have been more appropriate, for instance, to enlarge the face of the Queen’s great portrait with her children, also painted by Madame Lebrun? This was done in the exhibition catalog. Here Marie-Antoinette looks sad, preoccupied. We have a clear sense that the luxury displayed in earlier parts of the exhibit is not enough any more.

But the Queen continues to throw herself into runaway spending. Her dame d’atours (Mistress of the Wardrobe) the Countess d’Ossun, tries – without much success – to control the spending on clothes, ribbons and feathers.

I looked at the portrait of Mademoiselle Rose Bertin, from a private collection. Rose Bertin, a buxom lady with a round face and dark, shrewd eyes, was a redoubtable businesswoman. She made a fortune supplying the Queen’s dresses, and feared not Madame d’Ossun and her unheeded advice.

An example of the poor job the exhibition does of explaining things was that two ladies next to me were shaking their heads at the portrait of Mademoiselle Bertin, remarking gravely how altered the poor Queen already was. Certainly, Rose Bertin looked nothing like Marie-Antoinette. Most notices are placed at hip level, which does nothing to enhance legibility.

As time progresses, Marie-Antoinette’s taste becomes more refined, and the luxury becomes dazzling. The pieces from 1787, 1788 are the finest. So close now to the Revolution…

Now, speaking of the Revolution, I entered a vast hall, painted black, going downhill and becoming narrower in the distance. Compared to this, the earlier idea of the broken mirror seems the epitome of subtlety. While we are at it, why not have have a loudspeaker blaring: “And from now on, folks, it’s all the way straight to the guillotine?” At the same time, the rather distracting music that flooded the rest of the exhibit suddenly stops. It is replaced by the droning of the air conditioning, now on its chilliest setting (is this part of the “special effects” as well?) Shivering, I regretted to have left my coat at the vestiaire downstairs.

Thanks to the starry, starry night lighting, the notices next to the display cases in that last part of the exhibit are next to illegible.  But the cases themselves are adequately lit, and the objects there most interesting.

We see a collection of satirical images of the Queen. Their placement in this part of the exhibit, however, gives many visitors the incorrect idea that pamphlets targeting the Queen date from the Revolution. In fact they began circulating decades earlier.

Marie Antoinette Temple Kurcharski 1793

Marie Antoinette Temple Kurcharski 1793

We come to the Queen’s imprisonment, first at the Temple. The Queen’s furniture, modest though adequate by the bourgeois standard of the times, is in stark contrast of the luxury of the pieces displayed earlier. I caught myself regretting the no-nonsense, and far more moving, display of the same pieces at the Carnavalet Museum. There, you had the impression of entering the royal family’s living quarters. Here, you tread carefully not to step on another visitor’s feet in the dark.

There is one of the daily reports on the health of Louis XVI, now Louis Capet. He had coughed much the night before. Why? The curators of the exhibit do not tell us about this (or if they do, I missed it in the surroundings shadows) but the King had suffered for many years from tuberculosis, a disease he had apparently transmitted to both of his sons. But soon Louis’s condition soon becomes irrelevant: he is tried for treason by the National Convention, sentenced to death and executed.

And, still in the Temple, the Queen, now deposed, jailed and widowed, arranges again to have her portrait taken, though now in a very different style.

Then Marie-Antoinette is separated from her children. The former Queen is moved to still grimmer surroundings: the prison of La Conciergerie, next to the Revolutionary Tribunal, where she will be tried a few months later.

The rest is known. I saw the Queen’s last letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, a very moving missive, though, as noted by the curators, of disputed authenticity. For one thing, the spelling is flawless. Also, to me, its composed, majestic tone is too different from the Queen’s last message, this time of unquestionable origin.

Marie Antoinette to the scaffold David

Marie Antoinette to the scaffold David

She did write it, a few hours before her execution, on one of the pages of the prayer book she kept even in La Conciergerie. I will simply translate here those last words, which require no comment:

This 16th of Oct. at 4:30 in the morning
My God, have mercy on me!
My eyes have no more tears
to weep for you my poor
children; farewell, farewell!

Marie Antoinette

Then it was the last part of the journey, a moment seized by a sketch attributed to the painter David. One cannot imagine a grimmer image, and yet Marie-Antoinette still looks like a queen.

After this, the obligatory passage through the gift shop felt anticlimactic. I avoided the assorted Marie-Antoinette paper dolls, pillows, umbrellas, fridge magnets, pencils and key chains and was content to purchase the catalog of the exhibition. I am happy to report that it is fortunately exempt from “dramatic” touches.

My impression? In spite of a sometimes shoddy or tasteless presentation, the collection of portraits and objects assembled is so exceptional as to justify at the very least one visit. I was sometimes irritated, but the exhibition did deepen my knowledge and understanding of a complex and dramatic historical figure.

Marie Antoinette Signature

Marie Antoinette Signature

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40 Comments to “Marie-Antoinette: the destiny of a Queen”

  1. Gabrielle says:

    I was just wondering, because I’m doing project “How different were France and Britain in their systems of monarchy which impacted the outcomes of their revolution?”, did Marie Antoinette play a role in hastening the revolution?

  2. It feels good to have you back here, Penny!

  3. Penny says:

    thanks again for another post on Marie Antoinette, from what I have read historians agree with your assessment of M-A’s bad luck and faults which lead to her downfall.

  4. Spencer says:

    I believe it is possibly Marie Antoinette. Does anyone know? Merci!

  5. Spencer says:

    Hi does anyone know the title of the exibit’s photo album book?

  6. Catherine Delors says:

    Ella, I don’t think the catalog was translated into English. It is a wonderful reference, though, and had great photographs.

    It is available from the French Amazon, which ships to the US:
    http://www.amazon.fr/Marie-Antoinette-Album-lexposition-Xavier-Salmon/dp/2711855317/ref=sr_1_19?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238095514&sr=8-19

  7. Ella says:

    Hi, thank you for this detail critique of the exhibition. I was hoping you might be able to tell me whether the exhibition catalogue had an English addition or just the French one, and if so whether you had an idea where it could be bought if it is still on sale?
    Any help is greatly appreciated.

  8. Catherine Delors says:

    I have visited the Hotel de Rohan, but it was a weekday, and I don’t remember seeing the Salon des Singes. Always ready for one of those trips…

  9. Ditto! We could do the Salon du chocolat or have you seen the Cabinet des Singes at Hotel de Rohan (only open on Sunday afternoons by appt.)?
    I’m on the trail of all the singerie I can find and 18thc chateaux in general.
    Carolg

  10. Catherine Delors says:

    Carol – Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one turned off by the dark hall. Yes, the corkscrew stair was fun, and the gift shop…
    I’d love to meet you during your next trip to Paris!

  11. I wish I’d read this before or immediately after seeing the exhibit in March…
    I found the dark hall annoying and overall the exhibit seemed too small for all the fuss. I did enjoy the decorative arts shown and loved the winding staircase out of the exhibit, full of period hair designs. The gift shop left me agog – even more stuff than at the NY Met shows! Still some of it was fun. The facsimile book of M-A’s fabric selections was fascinating.
    Thank you for all the detail.

  12. Lapérouse, explorer extraordinaire, at the Musée de la Marine

    Many thanks to Sheramy at Van Gogh’s Chair for an excellent list of this summer’s exhibitions in the United States and France. By the way, if you wish to see Marie-Antoinette or Babylon, you should hurry, because both will be closing in early June.Sheramy did not mention another exhibition, more historical than artistic in its focus, titled Le mystère Laperouse, The Lapérouse Mystery, at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris. I love the colorful poster of the exhibition, the title is great (who doesn’t like a mystery?) and Lapérouse is a fascinating character.Jean-François de Lapérouse (1741- probably 1788) …

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  18. Another exhibition in Paris: Napoléon, Symbols of Power

    This should be another interesting exhibition (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, until October 5, 2008.) See the slide show for a preview. I have already mentioned Bonaparte’s deft handling of his own public image. He was also a micro-manager. No subject, however trivial, escaped his attention. He set out to reform not only the legal system, but also furniture design and female clothing (he found the prior fashions immodest.)The result? Decorative arts as propaganda. A heavy, pompous neoclassical style dedicated to the celebration of the glory of the new ruler. None of of the grace and refinement that had …

  19. Another exhibition in Paris: Napoléon, Symbols of Power

    This should be another interesting exhibition (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, until October 5, 2008.) See the slide show for a preview. I have already mentioned Bonaparte’s deft handling of his own public image. He was also a micro-manager. No subject, however trivial, escaped his attention. He set out to reform not only the legal system, but also furniture design and female clothing (he found the prior fashions immodest.)The result? Decorative arts as propaganda. A heavy, pompous neoclassical style dedicated to the celebration of the glory of the new ruler. None of of the grace and refinement that had …

  20. Another exhibition in Paris: Napoléon, Symbols of Power

    This should be an interesting exhibition (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, until October 5, 2008.) See the slide show for a preview. I have already mentioned Bonaparte’s deft handling of his own public image. He was also a micro-manager. No subject, however trivial, escaped his attention. He set out to reform not only the legal system, but also furniture design and female clothing (he found the prior fashions immodest.)The result? Decorative arts as propaganda. A heavy, pompous neoclassical style dedicated to the celebration of the glory of the new ruler. None of of the grace and refinement that had characterized …

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  25. Lapérouse, explorer extraordinaire, at the Musée de la Marine

    Many thanks to Sheramy at Van Gogh’s Chair for an excellent list of this summer’s exhibitions in the United States and France. By the way, if you wish to see Marie-Antoinette or Babylon, you should hurry, because both will be closing in early June.Sheramy did not mention another exhibition, more historical than artistic in its focus, titled Le mystère Laperouse, The Lapérouse Mystery, at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris. I love the colorful poster of the exhibition, the title is great (who doesn’t like a mystery?) and Lapérouse is a fascinating character.Jean-François de Lapérouse (1741- probably 1788) …

  26. Lapérouse, explorer extraordinaire, at the Musée de la Marine

    Many thanks to Sheramy at Van Gogh’s Chair for an excellent list of this summer’s exhibitions in the United States and France. By the way, if you wish to see Marie-Antoinette or Babylon, you should hurry, because both will be closing in early June.Sheramy did not mention another exhibition, more historic than artistic in its focus, titled Le mystère Laperouse, The Lapérouse Mystery, at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris. I love the colorful poster of the exhibition, the title is great (who doesn’t like a mystery?) and Lapérouse is a fascinating character.Jean-François de Lapérouse (1741- probably 1788) …

  27. Lapérouse, explorer extraordinaire, at the Musée de la Marineean

    Many thanks to Sheramy at Van Gogh’s Chair for an excellent list of this summer’s exhibitions in the United States and France. By the way, if you wish to see Marie-Antoinette or Babylon, you should hurry, because both will be closing in early June.Sheramy did not mention another exhibition, more historic than artistic in its focus, titled Le mystère Laperouse, The Lapérouse Mystery, at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris. I love the colorful poster of the exhibition, the title is great (who doesn’t like a mystery?) and Lapérouse is a fascinating character.Jean-François de Lapérouse (1741- probably 1788) …

  28. Lapérouse, explorer extraordinaire, at the Musée de la Marine

    Many thanks to Sheramy at Van Gogh’s Chair for an excellent list of this summer’s exhibitions in the United States and France. By the way, if you wish to see Marie-Antoinette or Babylon, you should hurry, because both will be closing in early June.Sheramy did not mention another exhibition, more historic than artistic in its focus, titled Le mystère Laperouse, The Lapérouse Mystery, at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris. I love the colorful poster of the exhibition, the title is great (who doesn’t like a mystery?) and Lapérouse is a fascinating character.Lapérouse (1741- probably 1788) was a …

  29. Lapérouse, explorer extraordinaire, at the Musée de la Marine

    Many thanks to Sheramy at Van Gogh’s Chair for an excellent list of this summer’s exhibitions in the United States and France. By the way, if you wish to see Marie-Antoinette or Babylon, you should hurry, because both will be closing in early June.Sheramy did not mention another exhibition, more historic than artistic in its focus, titled Le mystère Laperouse, The Lapérouse Mystery, at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris. I love the colorful poster of the exhibition, the title is great (who doesn’t like a mystery?) and Lapérouse is a fascinating character.Lapérouse (1741- probably 1788) was a …

  30. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Brianna – I looked around for a copy of this document, but couldn’t find any.
    It must normally be kept in the parish archives of Versailles, but I suppose they issue copies very sparingly.
    I am sorry not to be able to help but would love to learn more about your paper.

  31. Brianna Brown says:

    Please help! I’m writing a paper on the marriage of Marie Antoinette and would very much like to include a copy of her wedding certificate. Could you possibly help me with this? RSVP
    Thank you.

  32. Suzanne Levin says:

    It’s truly a pity. I can’t say I’m fond of Antoinette’s politics (or reports of her personality), but as a personage with a place in history she deserves better. The historical record itself deserves better than the myth that has been created around her.

    Really, I’m not sure who benefits from these gross oversimplifications and distortions. I suppose those who admire or pity Antoinette (or both) want others to share their sentiments, but it’s assuredly dishonest to attempt to elicit sympathy for her by denying that she could have been an agent in her own fate. Perhaps it’s the natural response to another persistent myth that wants her to be the cause of just about every event that took place in France from her arrival in Versailles to her execution, often including the Revolution itself. Which is, needless to say, equally unhelpful.

    A few small events are going to be held in commemoration of the event in Robespierre’s native city of Arras. But of course I don’t expect anything to take place in Paris. After all, during the bicentennial of the Revolution, when the powers that were, and especially the media, weren’t busy rehashing the tired old calumnies that date back to Thermidorian pamphlets, they were doing their best to ignore Robespierre’s existence. I’m doubtful they would start recognizing him now, though certainly I would love to see such an exhibit.

    Your explanation of Antoinette’s popularity–whether positive or negative–makes a great deal of sense. It’s certainly an interesting insight. The very elements that make the story of her life so attractive to others though are ironically those that make me find her one of the less interesting figures from the Revolutionary period. After all, I know that if I want to hear about queens I’ll never lack for material in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the 17th and early 18th centuries. The Revolution is the first time when “ordinary” people can really take on a meaningful role in events, especially at the level of politics. At such a pivotal moment, my thoughts are on them. Figures like Antoinette are like an afterthought to me: interesting perhaps, but overall insignificant.
    …Which is probably why I like your explanation on an intellectual level, but on another, more visceral level, the phenomenon remains inaccessible to me.

  33. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Yes, it was most interesting, and, as I said before, I will go back before it closes!

  34. Thank you, Catherine, for sharing your reflections of the exhibit! It sounds like it was interesting in spite of some of the flaws. Thank you for pointing out how Marie-Antoinette’s childhood had a cozy and casual atmosphere that did not really prepare her for life at Versailles. As Goethe remarked, the Habsburgs were like a large bourgeois family.

    Goodness, are people still disputing the authenticity of the queen’s last letter, stained with her tears? I thought that had been cleared up long ago, at least according to Castelot, Fraser, and other biographers. One would think that a clever forger would have added some misspellings. When a person is about to die, they are struggling with various emotions. Marie-Antoinette had obtained a certain measure of peace and resignation, but was still in great anguish over leaving her children, as can be seen from her lament for them in both the letter and the prayerbook.

    I did not know Louis had TB! That puts a lot of other things in a different light. What an informative post!

  35. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Yes, the image of Marie-Antoinette was sensationalized and trivialized.

    The narrative of the show, for someone who would not have known anything about her, would have been the following: here is an Austrian princess who moves to France at the age of 14 to marry the heir to the throne. Then she becomes Queen. She has several children, and people are very happy about that, though her mother scolds her all the time. She acquires a lot of very pretty things, spends a lot of money on clothes, and loves to have her portrait painted or sculpted. Then something (unexplained but definitely sinister, see the broken mirror!) happens to her over a big ugly necklace. Then there is a revolution, and it’s all downhill from there, quite literally. People begin turning against her. She is imprisoned, she now has to make do with regular things, her husband is guillotined, and finally she is guillotined too. This, according to the exhibition, is Marie-Antoinette’s life.

    What, sadly, is lost here is (1) the psychology of Marie-Antoinette and (2) any sense of history. Of course, one can only hope that visitors will have some knowledge of Marie-Antoinette beforehand (preferably not from Sofia Coppola’s film.) Else, they will have much trouble sorting it out.

    The most striking example was the marriage certificate. For me, it was very evocative because I am fascinated by old documents, and I took the trouble to read the two pages of it, signatures included. For most visitors, I am afraid the interest of that piece was lost. It was great to have it in the show, it was unforgivable not to bring more attention to it.

    As for Robespierre, I agree, an exhibition is more than overdue, and I would love to see something like what was done for Franklin at the Carnavalet. Or the National Archives, in the Marais, would be a perfect setting for such an exhibit.

    And finally why is Marie-Antoinette such a pop culture icon? First, by any standard, it is an extraordinary destiny, a richess-to-rags story. It is the tale of a woman who loses everything, well beyond her material possessions, and then finds her true self. Of course she is an actor of the Revolution, not only a victim. That was one of the many topics, by the way, left unexplored by the show.

    At the same time, Marie-Antoinette was glamorous, in the same manner as, for instance, Princess Diana. I hasten to say that the similarities stop there: Diana had no political role, and she was as popular as Marie-Antoinette was unpopular. But even the Queen’s unpopularity shows how strong of an impression she made on her contemporaries. I think she was simply charismatic, for the better or for the worse.

  36. Suzanne Levin says:

    Not having seen the exhibit, I of course can’t comment on it directly, but you imply that it was sensationalized, and I can comment on that. I’ve noticed that much of what relates to Antoinette–and there has been quite a bit of that in recent years–tends not only to be sensationalized but to portray her entirely as a victim, with no, or very little, responsibility for any of the misfortunes that befell her. It seems like the same phenomenon may be going on here. Was that your impression of it?

    I hate to sound bitter, but rightly speaking, this should be a year for exhibits on Robespierre, rather than Antoinette, considering 2008 is the 250th anniversary of his birth. Not that I in any way begrudge Antoinette an exhibit in addition, but I also must admit that I’ve never quite understood why out of all the historical figures from that era, Antoinette is the one that so fascinates people. Perhaps you could give me your perspective on the subject…?

  37. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    I translate what Sybille says” “Oops I just reread the whole thing (I had read it a bit too fast) and in fact our criticisms are the same: very little explaining and sometimes odd choices as to the artifacts… I was very disappointed by the exhibit in general, I hope to be able to see a new one in a few years.”

    Possibly, Sybillle, but Marie-Antoinette exhibitions are few and far between. I believe (correct me if I am wrong) that it was the first one in 50 years or so.

    If you too have seen the show, please share your impressions of it!

  38. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you, Sybille, for sharing your impressions and for your visit. Please come back!

    For English-speaking readers of this blog, Sybille found the exhibition soulless, the works on display too well know, and the whole thing too short. Sybille also mentions the overcrowding of the show and her concern (which was also mine, especially in the “dark” part) not to step on too many feet.

    I must say that I too knew a lot of what was displayed, either first-hand or through reproductions, but still found much to discover.

  39. Sibylle says:

    Oups je viens de relire le tout (j’avais lu un peu trop vite) et en fait nos reproches sont les mêmes : très peu d’explications et des choix étranges parfois au niveau des oeuvres… J’étais très déçue par l’exposition en général, j’espère que je pourrai en voir une autre dans quelques années.

  40. Sibylle says:

    C’est drôle, nous avons des impressions complètement différentes. J’ai trouvé l’exposition sans âme, les oeuvres présentées trop connues à mon goût et le tout bien court… J’aurais peut-être du me payer le luxe d’un commentaire audio. Je ne pense pas l’avoir vue dans les meilleures conditions non plus : il y avait un monde fou, c’est tout juste si je suis parvenue à ne pas écraser trop de pieds !
    Mistress of the Revolution est sur ma liste, et je reviendrai souvent :)

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