"Queen Marie Antoinette" by Adolf Ulrich Wertmüller (1785)

Queen Marie Antoinette, painted by Adolf Ulrich Wertmüller in the 1780s, is a portrait of the queen and her children. Marie Antoinette reigned over France with her husband, Louis, during the eighteenth century. Marie Antoinette lacked support from the French people (PBS). She suffered from harsh accusations, and the French often criticized her because they believed she was spending too much time away from the palace with her children in Versailles, and in doing so, neglecting her duties as Queen (PBS). Ultimately, she was beheaded during the French revolution because she was so identified as a rich, unfitting monarch who cared little for her people (PBS).

This portrait exemplifies stereotypical royal lifestyle. The queen and her children are each dressed in layers of expensive, fashionable clothing. Both children are holding onto their mother’s hands; her daughter is carrying flowers, while her son holds his hat. It is obvious that they are wealthy people because of their outfits, attitude, and poise. They have contented facial expressions, not showing much emotion, but rather emitting a sense of confidence. By their positioning, it seems like they are supposed to be walking through their garden. Striding with attitude, the family is obviously aware of the great power and influence they hold above everyone else. The daughter is looking towards the son for direction, which is a small demonstration of gender roles and the authority men held over women.

Wertmüller’s Queen Marie Antoinette perfectly depicts the idea of beauty in eighteenth-century French society (PBS). Beauty was measured by material means; wealth, clothing, looks, and social class. Much like today in the United States, when women constantly try to morph their appearances into that of a model, women strived to look like Marie Antoinette. She was the height of fashion, and everything about her was perfect: her hair, her clothes, her things (Fraser). She was dressed by her servants every morning, and treated with the utmost of care and attention to detail (Fraser). Wealthy women copied her every look and mannerism. Being educated was unimportant. But instead, a woman’s image, family history, and social class dictated how successful she would become (PBS). Beauty and importance depended solely on one’s physical features, elegance, and social status.

Fraser, Antonia. Marie Antoinette: the Journey. New York: N.A. Talese/Doubleday, 2001. Print.
"Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution . Timeline . A Revolution: 1789-1790 | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Web. <"http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/timeline/revolution.html">.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating that the painting chosen to illustrate the point of beauty and power, is a portrait that brought scandal to the monarchy. That at the close of the Salon of 1785 when it was first publicly presented, an immediate response by the court was, to locate a French national to paint the proper visual propaganda needed to further the political agenda of the ruling elites of the time.