Let's look at the portrait above as art historians. The portrait is painted as if writing us a love letter. Marie Antoinette is only 14 years old. The very first thing we notice is her eyes. The artist has left alot of "white space" around them to make sure they draw our attention. "The eyes are the windows of the soul." Her eyes say that she is sweet and innocent, but strong-minded and ready for the task at hand. The portrait is telling us this young girl has royal blood and great potential as a royal wife. That is; after all, her only value in her Time. The laurel of pearls that softly "crowns" her hair suggests this. She is intelligent as shown by her high forehead and slightly raised brow.
We see that she is pretty and healthy by her red, bowed lips, pink cheeks and fine bossom. The artist, again, has suggested that she is precocious, or will be wise beyond her years by her over all expression and her slightly powdered wig. But, then, he doesn't want to say she's too old...so we have the big, girlish blue silk bow at her neck and chest area. And, the use of the yellow silk dress which indicates royalty and youth, purity and lightheartedness. Aside from the laurel of faintly indicated pearls in her hair, she is wearing no jewelry or other ornamentation. All in all....a very sweet portrait of a young princess to be sent to a future husband for the bargaining!! Or bluntly stated, in a more contemporary way....look at the picture closely. She is shaped like a Queen Bee in her hive....ready to reproduce! She's slightly volumptuous with a beehive hair style.
One of the very first books I ever read was a biography of her. I was smitten from that first historical encounter. I was 8 years old. Marie Antoinette seemed to be a young, kind, sadly alone girl who was a princess, but never really was understood or loved by her people. I first imagined her in my mind all alone being driven across a cold and snowy country in a covered sled headed to a strange land. I could see her bundled up in white fur and blue velvet robes. She was sent away from her home, her mother and siblings. She wasn't sure who would take her in on the other side. She didn't know who would meet her. She didn't know if her future husband would like her. She had no idea what France was, who the French people were and what her home would be like. That was the long and short of it in my child's mind. I had alot to relate to in Marie Antoinette's life. I wanted to love her then...and I still do. I have, as I said, all of my life.
So, I've decided to devote some of my blog to the study of Marie Antoinette, portraits of her, and her domestic interiors. I'm going to focus on studies of her furnishings, the colors, and the fabrics and tapestries of her surroundings. We'll get to know what she personally liked. What colors she preferred and what designs expressed who she was. We'll be able to understand more about her..not only in her palaces, but in her favorite, little rustic village and cottages. Her preferences set the historical face of interior design...and we still live with her choices today.
Our houses tell more about us than we realize. I know....I've been studying and working with arts and fabrics and furnishings in one way or another since I was a baby! What we choose, how we envelope ourselves...it all tells a story. I want to unravel Marie Antoinette's.
This is fair warning! :) I hope I don't drive some of my stitching friends away!
How will this study connect with our stitching? I want to see and stitch with some of the "colors of Marie Antoinette." I will be choosing colors from threads that are available to us now, so I can have a visual, tangible color palette. I'm thinking of designing a spot or band sampler as I go along.Here is a beginning example. This is a bedroom drapery and silk bedcovering ensamble that was made for MA for Fountainbleu. She never used the room. What it tells us is her color and pattern preferences.
Since noone would dare give her a complete bedroom that would displease her, we can be assured these are some of her favorite colors. In this picture we see that she does not use the darkest or deepest shade of colors...she liked medium tone colors. She doesn't have any pastels here, either. The pastels were kept for her cottages.
I see these 3 main colors: Grass green, peony pink, and yellow. From these you take the different values or shades of each color. There would have been 2 more secondary colors to balance the palette.... The gold acts as a "yellow."
The Chinese image above her bed shows her evolving artistic interest in chinoiserie. Trade with China brought many beautiful china and silks to royals. Marie Antoinette collected chinese porcelain vases, for instance. By the time she has this bedroom created for her, she is well into her role as the reigning Queen of France.
However, to begin at the beginning: in the portrait at the top, Marie Antoinette of Austria is 14 yrs old. She is one year away from leaving her mother and family to become the wife and Queen of the future King of France. All she knows is music, dance, singing, embroidery, playing with her sisters, opulence, servants, structure of her mother's hard Hapsburg rule, flowers and language studies. She is an obedient child. She is the youngest daughter, and very close to her older sister who dotes on her. Her mother is a daunting and powerful woman...a Hapsburg... Ruler of a Royal Dynasty of Royals...a Queen to be respected...a strong and mostly distant mother. Marie Antonia speaks German. French is not her mother-tongue, nor is she well-schooled in French manners or world history. She is shy and willing to obey.Here she is a young Queen. More about this portrait later.