Marie-Antoinette, the unloved

Marie-Antoinette, the unloved

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  • Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1755-1793)

    VIGÉE LE BRUN Élisabeth Louise (1755 - 1842)

  • Marie-Antoinette de Lorrraine Habsbourg, Queen of France and her children.

    VIGÉE LE BRUN Élisabeth Louise (1755 - 1842)

  • Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1755-1793)

    VIGÉE LE BRUN Élisabeth Louise (1755 - 1842)

Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1755-1793)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Marie-Antoinette de Lorrraine Habsbourg, Queen of France and her children.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1755-1793)

Author : VIGÉE LE BRUN Élisabeth Louise (1755 - 1842)

Creation date : 1783

Date shown: 1783

Dimensions: Height 131 - Width 87

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas, replica of the original disappeared which replaced, at the salon of 1783, the portrait in gaul, 1784 (

Storage place: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Picture reference: 15-513134 / MV 3893

Marie-Antoinette, queen of France (1755-1793)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: January 2005

Historical context

Born in 1755, Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, Archduchess of Austria, became Queen of France in 1774 when Louis XVI ascended to the throne. To be convinced of this, it suffices to compare her works to the very dry portrait that the Swedish painter Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller painted in 1784: surrounded by her two children, Marie-Antoinette, very realistic, presents the heavy chin of the Habsburgs (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum ). Not satisfied with the result, the queen openly criticized the painting, which was exhibited at the Salon of 1785.

Image Analysis

Taking up the principle of royal portraits, the first examples of which date back to the 16th century, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun places the queen in an architectural setting that allows her a real staging, with columns, tables and draperies. In this sense, these portraits correspond to the portraits of Louis XVI in coronation costume by Duplessis and Callet.
From the official portrait of 1778, several replicas with variants are known, two of which are kept in Versailles. The queen presents herself with her head turned or not. In the artist's first portrait, the queen appears a little stilted in her overly rich dress. She adopted a posture more official than properly human, with the crown of France at her side. The original portrait was intended for her brother Joseph II, Germanic Emperor, and Madame Vigée-Lebrun made two other copies, one for Versailles, the other for Tsarina Catherine of Russia.
Over time, Madame Vigée-Lebrun's style became less stiff, her relations with the Queen having become less formal and certainly more friendly. The following portraits showed a more human sovereign, dressed in simpler clothes, although very luxurious in their qualities or their sometimes bright colors. In the Salon portrait of 1787, the queen is presented as a mother surrounded by her three children. The baby she carries on her knees is the future Louis XVII, who died in the Temple in 1795. It is the first dolphin, Louis-Joseph-Xavier of France, who gives meaning to the painting by indicating the future.
But the most famous painting today is undoubtedly that of Marie-Antoinette with a rose. While the original model, known as "en gaulle", has disappeared, five replicas with variations (hat, muslin dress, etc.) were taken from it by the artist. This flattering, very intimate portrait shows a sovereign who, although very dignified, is very simply dressed in a gray silk dress and makes a bouquet. Nothing official in this portrait, where the queen is presented alone, probably in the gardens of Trianon or the Hameau, where she liked to lead a country life, far from the plots of the court.


The last queen of France, highly valued by her husband Louis XVI, was also the most represented of all sovereigns. These paintings have done a lot for the posthumous legend of Marie-Antoinette. They represent her not as the futile woman that revolutionary legend has liked to give of her, but as a majestic and human woman at the same time, perfectly in her place in her role of queen and mother, even if the portrait with a rose watch engaged in more trivial activities. However, during his lifetime, the proliferation of portraits contributed in part to fuel his great unpopularity. Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun herself paid for the fact of having represented the queen and had to go into exile across Europe, where she continued her brilliant career as a portrait painter.

  • Bourbons
  • Marie Antoinette
  • portrait
  • royal bride


Joseph BAILLIO “Marie-Antoinette and her children by Mme Vigée-Lebrun”, in The eyen ° 310, May 1981.Simone BERTIEREMarie-Antoinette the rebelliousParis, Fallois, 2002. Claire CONSTANSNational Museum of the Palace of Versailles.The paintings1995, t.II, p.933, n ° 5247 and 5248.Guy CHOSSIGNAND-NOGARETThe Daily Life of King's Wives from Agnès Sorel to Marie-AntoinetteParis, Hachette, 1990.Jules FLAMMERMONT “The portraits of Marie-Antoinette”, in Gazette of Fine Arts1898, p.388-390.Evelyne LEVERMarie-Antoinette, the last queenParis, Gallimard coll. Découvertes, 2000. François PITT-RIVERSMadame Vigée-LebrunParis, Gallimard, 2001.Muriel VIGIÉThe Official Portrait in France from the 5th to the 20th centuryParis, Van Wilder, 2000.

To cite this article

Jérémie BENOÎT, "Marie-Antoinette, the unloved one"

Video: Queen Marie Antoinette, Part 1


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