Before we begin the frivolities of the weekend, I thought it important to remember that tomorrow, October 16th , at 12:15 p.m. marks the 217th anniversary of this great woman’s murder.
Recquiscat in Pace
Queen Marie Antoinette of France
b. 2nd November 1755
d. 16th October 1793, 12:15 pm
Daughter of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Franz I. Stephan of Austria
Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun
Art Institute, Detroit
(of all places)
There are two anniversaries on the annual calendar that upon my ritual reading of the events causes my heart to ache. The first being the reading of the Passion , the second being the cruelties inflicted upon Marie Antoinette that October morning 1793. Faith and politics aside, both illustrate man’s ability to disregard humanity , particularly shocking when faced with another who has been reduced to abject wretchedness. My great hope is that I would rise above such base behavior, but even Peter found strength elusive.
I love this image of the Queen by Alexandre Kucharski (ca. 1791).
It expresses a great humanity, unlike so many of the “glamour” shoots which we are most familiar with.
The softness of her coloring, the luminous quality of her skin prompting Vigée Le Brun to comment that the Queen’s skin “so transparent that it allowed no shadow,”.
Source: Antonia Fraser
As much as I may admire the subtle humanity captured by Kucharsky, we have all fallen for her royal public image.
Be it a formal court painting, inspiring reverence and awe,
or a fashion spread, few have been able to ignore her charms ; save for humorless republicans and godless anarchists.
To our very day, folks who share a love of glamour, romance, and style find inspiration in the Martyr Marie.
My dear friend Patrick Ediger of the design house French American has wittily designed a new fabric due out this winter.
It has been dubbed Queen of Pop, I am particularly attracted to the “chandelier” head dress.
Queen of Pop
click for detail.
As an aspiring artist I am particularly touched by Vigée Le Brun’s remembrance of an awkward moment before the Queen. After having cancelled a sitting with the Queen due to illness, Le Brun went to apologize the next day ;the Queen graciously cancelled her own scheduled plans for an impromptu sitting. The Queen’s kindness caused Le Brun to fumble .
” I remember that, in my confusion and my eagerness to make a fitting response to her kind words,I opened my paint-box so excited that I spilled my brushes on the floor. I stooped down to pick them up. “Never mind, never mind,” said the Queen, and for aught I could say, she insisted on picking them all up herself…”. source
Le Brun, a favored and ridiculously prolific court painter, remained true to the memory of Her Majesty. Her allegiance complicated matters when the upstart Napoleon sat upon the republican throne.
Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun
b. 16th March 1755
d. 30th March 1842
If interested her fascinating memoir is easily downloaded.
In the early hours of October 16th 1793, Marie Antoinette demonstrated her courage and faith in a final letter to her sister-in law, Madame Elizabeth:
“October 16. 4:40 in the morning
I have just been condemned to death, not to a shameful death, that can only be for criminals, but in order to rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to demonstrate the same firmness as he did at the end. I am calm, as people are whose conscience is clear. My deepest regret is at having to abandon our poor children; you know that I only lived on for them and for you, my good and tender sister.”
source: Marie Antoinette, the Journey, Antonia Frazer, pg. 436
Denying the Queen the dignity of Widows Weeds, “Antoinette Capet”was forced to wear a common white dress. The trip to the guillotine was designed to be a trail of humiliation.
The Queen would defy their base intentions.
The hateful David took pleasure in depicting the Queen in her final humiliating moments. Her critics saw imperial Hapsburg haughtiness, justification for their cruel perversions; I see a woman of great breeding, brutally shorn of hair, a sad cap with a few black ribbons of morning, a body and spirit broken, forced to sit in a donkey cart. Willful hatefulness only elicited dignity from this great Queen.
Final sketch by the odious David.
Her breeding and innate kindness apparent even as she approached the blade. Having stepped upon her executioner’s foot, she instinctively apologized, ” I did not do it on purpose”.
For all of her perceived “sins” that is perhaps a fitting response.
True to the Catholic faith , she chided the false priest Abbé Girard when he suggested she gather her courage.
This great Queen , daughter of the great Empress Maria Theresia did not require this traitor’s words of encouragement.
“Courage! The moment when my ills are going to end is not the moment when courage is going to fail me.”
Well put dear Queen.
Much of her reputation has been restored, aside from the tiresome”cake” references, many folks hold a tender place in their hearts for this unfortunate woman.
Her final resting spot, the Basilica of Saint-Denis.
So tomorrow, no matter what your time zone, a t 12:15 pm give a “shout-out ” to dear Marie Antoinette.
Viva la Reine!
Viva la Reine!
Viva la Reine!
Have a great weekend.