Professor Nicole Johnston
April 16, 14
Marie Antoinette: The Gall of Gaulle
Marie Antoinette went from an innocent young archduchess of Austria to an international pop culture icon once becoming the Queen of France. The portrait of Antoinette by Vigee-Lebrun was suppose to be another ordinary portrait of Marie that Vigee-Lebrun had done many times before in the past, but quickly turned into a national phenomenon in France. The common folk were not used to seeing a Queen, especially theirs, in such informal clothing and did not know how to react to the portrait. Most of the French people were unsure about Marie at first because she was an outsider, but as she began to grow on the people as well as the mistresses they started to adore her and her style. Marie had such elaborate styles and loved to wear lavish clothing including the finest jewelry as well as most unique shoes. Marie had her own style that strayed away from the traditional 18th century dress of that time. The Queen used her dress as a political statement many times throughout her reign and people would do anything to look like Marie. She certainly had a roller coaster of a ride as Queen and dauphine of France, but Marie Antoinette is without doubt an international symbol that is renowned now and will be recognized for years to come. Vigee-Lebrun painted the original portrait of Marie Antoinette, La Reine en Gaulle, in 1783. Marie was inspired by Roussseau’s writings about a life that was more simple and rustic. She wanted to show the world, and the French people, the natural feminine form. Marie’s dress she wore in the portrait was a white muslin dress and she wore a simple sash around her waist with a rose in her hand. The background of the original painting was dark and was very gloomy and unusual from most portraits of royals. Instead of a restricting corset, she wore a gaulle or an informal dress. A gaulle is softer and simpler than an intricate gown with a stomacher, petticoat, and wide panniers. Marie was also wearing a wide brimmed hat instead of a more traditional pouf. She does not have any white powder in her hair, which is also not normal for a queen to be seen without. Her hair was not curled or styled in any way either, which was very unusual as Marie left her hair how it naturally was. The queen was seen in an informal setting which was very rare. This was especially true because this portrait was going to be on public display it was very unusual for the queen to be seen in an informal setting. This was seen as direct disrespect for tradition and proper French etiquette at Versailles by many of the French elite. Marie got the idea for her La Reine en Gaulle portrait while she was in her Petite Trianon, which was a gift from Louis XVI once he claimed the throne in 1774. Marie Antoinette set up a small fake village outside the Petite Trianon. Here she had her own personal palace at the end of the gardens of Versailles and could manage everyone who came and went, even the King. Marie would come here not only to escape from her formal life as queen, but she could also be a teenager and not have to deal with her royal responsibilities and duties. From a very young age there was much expected form the queen and this put a lot of pressure on her. The queen could live out any fantasy she dreamed at the Petite Trianon and many French, even elites, did not know what went on here. Marie in this portrait however was going far beyond the bounds of good taste, and most who saw the painting thought it reminded them of a chemise and could not believe the queen would allow herself to be painted in just her underwear. The gaulle symbolizes Marie’s personality and distinction from everyone else who had come before her. She was not of French descent and did not have the same morals as past queens of France. Instances such as the affair of the diamond necklace gave her negative opinion to the people of the public. Most historians think that Marie...
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Weber, Caroline. Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. New York: H. Holt, 2006. Print.
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