Color Style Kyle

Combining art, creativity, design, family, health, humor and books.

Marie Antoinette Show at San Francisco Legion of Arts

Posted by Kyle Design on January 14, 2008

Fleur De Lis Holiday Ornament in Custom ColorsMy girls and I visited the Legion of Honor in San Francisco yesterday to take in the Marie-Antoinette and the Petit Trianon at Versailles show running now through February 17, 2008. The show hoped to clear up some of the mysteries and misconceptions surrounding this infamous Queen of France. It certainly was a very interesting, although not spectacular, collection of paintings, furniture and drawings from her private retreat. The girls enjoyed the show, and I think it is important to continually expose them to art of different periods, even though our tastes tend to run toward the contemporary.

Woman artist and painter Vigée Le Brun painted at least 30 portraits of Marie-Antoinette, and my eldest daughter noticed that at least two in the show (and 6 of the 30 I’ve since discovered) were of the exact same pose, of her with a bent arm holding up a rose, with just a different outfit. (The early days of production work?)

Artist Design Flask with Painter's Easel, Palette and PaintbrushesMarie Antoinette, who apparently was a bit prudish, had large paintings that featured nudity replaced by paintings of her choice: scenes from her happy childhood with her many siblings (she was the youngest of 15). Although with one painting, named “Fishing” which might have been by Francois Boucher(?), I wondered if it was partly because of the grotesque Mermaid-like creatures with their deformed squiggly tails like underdeveloped fish writhing in the water or floating in the air. Yuck! These are not the smooth, shimmery green tails found on Mermaids in Disney movies.

And these paintings are huge! Enough to give anyone nightmares, if you ask me. She was only 14 in 1770 when she was married off to the future King Louis XVI, sight unseen, leaving behind her large family in Austria in the move to France. (He actually didn’t become King until 1774.)

Chair Pill Holder in Silver and Iridescent RustThere was one little four-poster bed, “The Bed from the King’s Bedroom”, with matching chairs, in crimson and white silk that my youngest thought she might still fit, but for me as a grown woman thought that, at best, I could sit up in it. They must have all been very short, or they all just slept (uncomfortably?) as balls, perhaps having nightmares.

There were a couple of fine examples of marquetry, in particular a dressing table by Jean-Henri Riesener made of satinwood, kingwood and gilt bronze that masterfully gave the impression of a raised pattern of diamonds.

Decorative Cake Business Card HolderSo, did Marie Antoinette ever say, “Let them eat cake!“? Or more fully, “If they have no bread, let them eat cake!” Most likely, no. The saying had actually been around for 100 years before her time. She was at the wrong place and the wrong time; she alienated the French court with her unconventional actions, she became a pawn of others and suffered unfavorable public opinion during and after the French Revolution that eventually lead to her death by guillotine at the age of 37 in 1793.

Click photos above or following links to see more of my Fleur De Lis, Artist, Chair or Cake Design collections.

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