Thursday, May 21, 2015

Madame Elisabeth Prayer Cards

Although she is often overlooked in popular culture, Madame Elisabeth played an integral role in the lives of Louis XVI and his family--particularly during those final years in captivity. Her religious devotion was a source of strength not just for herself, but for her brother, her sister-in-law, and their children. Madame Royale wrote that once she was old enough to appreciate such things, she saw nothing in her aunt but "religion, love of God, horror of sin, gentleness, piety, modesty, and a great attachment to her family, for whom she sacrificed her life[.]"

I recently received several religious items related to the unfortunate princess, which I'd like to share now.

Below is a scan of a beautiful prayer card featuring one of the most well known prayers of Madame Elisabeth, presented in an elegant font and surrounded by religious and royal imagery.

credit: my scan/collection

The second item is a small booklet, released sometime in the 1920s, featuring a small portrait on the front, a short biography of the princess along with a few religious quotes from her letters on the inside (not pictured); and the same prayer quoted above on the back.

credit: my scan/collection

There's a particularly interesting note at the bottom of the page: "People who obtain graces of God through the intercession of Madame Elisabeth are requested to provisionally notify the Carmel de Pie IX of Meaux."

The Carmelites of Meaux were the first known association to campaign for the beatification of Madame Elisabeth. Princess Henriette of Belgium was the most famous patron in their cause. There have actually been several movements to petition the Church to beatify Elisabeth since the 1920s, including a modern Association of Madame Elisabeth founded in 2008; so far, none of these efforts have been successful.

 credit: my scan/collection

The final item I received is nearly identical to the earlier booklet, except it is from the late 1930s or early 1940s and is much more simple. The interior pages (not pictured) contains a short biography and the back, like the earlier release, has a transcription of Elisabeth's prayer.

And finally, an English translation of the prayer featured on all three of these publications:
I do not know what will happen to me today, o my God. All I know is that nothing will happen to me but what You have foreseen from Eternity. That is sufficient, o my God, to keep me in peace. I adore Your infinite designs. I submit to them with all of my heart. I desire them all: I accept them all. I make the sacrifice to You of everything. I unite this sacrifice to that of your dear Son my Saviour, begging You by His Sacred Heart and by His infinite merits for the patience in my troubles and the perfect submission which is due to You in all that You wish and permit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Marie Antoinette's Wedding Dress

The wedding dress worn by the 14-year old Marie Antoinette for the lavish ceremony held in the Royal Chapel of Versailles must have been a spectacle to behold. The court of France was the epicenter of fashionable dress in Europe, where trends were made and unmade, and where court dress was well-known for being the most luxurious of all.

The dress worn by Marie Antoinette was described as being made with silver cloth and decorated with countless numbers of diamonds; Marie Antoinette herself was described as "much jeweled" on her wedding day. Although it must have been one of the most extravagant wedding gowns in its day, the expensive and well-planned wedding dress worn by Marie Antoinette no longer exists. However, we can get an idea of what it may have looked like through contemporary wedding dresses and several contemporary engravings.

 image: the wedding dress of Hedwig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein Gottorp

The wedding dress of Hedwig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein Gottorp is among the finest surviving examples of a wedding dress worn by someone in the very upper crust of European society. Hedwig married the future Charles XIII of Sweden in June of 1774, just four years after the wedding of Marie Antoinette; Hediwg's dress, made with expensive silver cloth and tissue, was ordered from Paris and would have been the height of court-approved royal wedding apparel at the time. The dress originally had matching sleeves made from silver tissue and lace, but these were later removed.

 image: Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste in their wedding outfits

This particular contemporary engraving of Marie Antoinette and her new husband Louis Auguste in their wedding ensembles matches the descriptions of their wedding day dress quite well. No expense would have been spared for either outfit--the wedding of the heirs to the throne of France was no "simple" wedding! Marie Antoinette's dress was made from beautiful silver cloth, bedecked in diamonds and other jewels that sparkled as she passed the throngs of spectators gathered to witness the important ceremony; while Louis' ensemble, though it was described as not fitting the groom--who blushed and trembled--exceptionally well, would have been made from brilliant gold cloth.

image: The wedding ensembles from Marie Antoinette (2006)

 Marie Antoinette's wedding dress has been featured in multiple films about the queen. The dress worn in the 2006 Sofia Coppola film was designed by Milena Canonero. The dress is made from a beautiful silver cloth with a creamy tint and decorated with various ribbons and embellishments, although Marie Antoinette is not "much jeweled" as she was described on her real wedding day. Many of the dresses featured in the film do not have as many ornamental embellishments as court dress at the time, which may have been a way of giving the costumes more appeal to modern viewers.

 image: Marie Antoinette's wedding dress in Marie Antoinette: La veritable histoire (2006)

This dress was worn by Karine Vanasse in the docudrama Marie Antoinette: La veritable histoire. The gown was actually used twice in the film: first in the wedding scene and again during a scene where Marie Antoinette is reading a letter from her mother. The dress is relatively simple in comparison to the type of dress Marie Antoinette may have worn; the simple design may have been intentional so that the filmmakers could re-use it in another scene without requiring the creation of an entirely new ensemble. The costume designers for the film are listed as Pierre Bechir, Nicoletta Massone, Sylvie de Segonzac.

 image: the wedding ensembles in Marie Antoinette (1938)

The wedding won designed by Gilbert Adrian for Marie Antoinette (1938) is easily among the most sumptuous and detailed gown in the film--and perhaps one of of the most sumptuous gowns in film history! The gown, which weighed an amazing 108 lbs, was made with 500 yards of pristine white satin; it was hand-embroideredwith thousands of seed pearls, ribbons and other delicate (and expensive!) embellishments. With the amount of work and money it must have taken to create this dress, it's no wonder the MGM studio heads were breathing down Adrian's neck about the costume budget!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Deepest Expectations: An Allegory of the Death of Louis XV

Louis XV had once been called the "Most Beloved," but by the time of his death in 1774, he had squandered the good will of the people with years of unpopular decisions, increasing isolation from anyone outside his court circle, and visible, expensive mistresses who made convenient scapegoats for the king's decisions. His death ushered in a wave of hopes, pressure and expectations from the French people for their new king, the young Louis-Auguste, now Louis XVI, and his young queen.

 image: Allegory of the Death of Louis XV
credit: Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie

Perhaps nothing illustrations the immediacy of these expectations than this engraving published in 1774 as 'An Allegory of the Death of Louis XV.' Rather than resembling the standard allegory of the death of royalty--which usually depict them being welcomed into heaven by angels, cherubs and other heavenly creatures--Louis XV is shown in barefoot, in simple clothing with a traveler's walking stick; he is being shown portraits of his living family, the hope for France. It is his remaining family, and not Louis XV himself, who are being draped with flower garlands and celebrated.

To illustrate the point even further, this engraving was accompanied by the following poem, which refers to Louis XV as 'the subject of regret.'
What an important spectacle this tableau presents you!
An august family still flourishing
Contemplate here these portraits
See--there, gathered under the eyes of France
Along with the subject of regret
Those of its deepest expectation
Marie Antoinette remarked on these expectations in a letter to her mother several months after the death of her 'grandpapa king': "... I worry a little about this French enthusiasm when it comes to the future. ... opinion is divided, and it will be impossible to please everyone in a country where people are so impatient that they want everything done immediately."

Louis XV left his grandson a kingdom that was in near ruins from deficit and deeply ingrained corruption. Louis XVI, woefully unprepared to rule and forced to navigate the corrupted court that detested his attempts at reform, was faced with the impossible task of fixing France.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

'ImagineFrance' by Maia Flore

ImagineFrance: A Fantastical Voyage is a photography series by Maia Flore, who is best known for her fantasy photography work, including her critically acclaimed Sleep Elevations series. The 25 photographs featured in the ImagineFrance series are the result of Flore's tour of some of the most memorable places that France has to offer--from the chateau de Versailles to the Pont du Gard and beyond.

But Flore doesn't simply capture these sights with her lens--she transforms them into something wistful, magical, otherworldly, and even somber. The end result is a photograph that speaks to the viewer on a personal level. In her description of ImagineFrance, Martine Ravache aptly describes Flore's photographs as "... an experience, sometimes of the absurd, sometimes of playfulness or mystery, sometimes of light, nature, or adventure. In the end, a sense of freedom gives each of us – whether spectator or visitor—a burning desire to jump in and join this enchanted world."

All of the photographs in the series can be viewed on the official ImagineFrance website. I have selected a few that personally stood out to me to share here.

 image: Chateau de Thoiry
credit: © Maia Flore/VU'/Atout France
 image: Chateau de Haut-Koenigsbourg
credit: © Maia Flore/VU'/Atout France

 image: Conciergerie, Paris
credit: © Maia Flore/VU'/Atout France

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Two hairstyles inspired by the Louis XVI era

I recently received a few postcards from a series of cards made to commemorate a hairstyle/hairstyling exposition in Antwerp, Belgium. Many of the hairstyles featured in the cards were inspired by historical coiffures, including the following two that I purchased, which are inspired by hairstyle in the Louis XVI era.


credit: my scan/collection

credit: my scan/collection

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pastels of the Chateau de Chantilly by Anne-Rosalie Filleul

image: A portrait of Louis-Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Condé by an unknown artist. 18th century.

Louis Joseph de Bourbon, prince de Condé was a prince of the blood who inherited, among several other prestigious estates, the chateau de Chantilly, which had been in his family for many years. It was this particular Condé who overhauled the Chantilly grounds and ordered the construction of an English-style garden, including a hamlet. The hamlet and gardens at Chantilly would be an inspiration for Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon gardens several years later.

In 1780, Anne-Rosalie Filleul (born Anne-Rosalie Boquet) was hired to paint views of the estate, with an emphasis on its lush English-style gardens. Filluel was a popular artist whose work was noticed by Marie Antoinette, who eventually commissioned her to paint several portraits of the royal family. Of these royal portraits, only a few--such as her portrait of the Artois children--survived the revolution.

 image: A portrait of the children of the comte d'Artois by Anne-Rosalie Filleul. 1781.

Filleul, like many of her royal paintings, did not survive the revolution. She was denounced to the Committee of Public Safety for wearing mourning for Louis XVI in 1794, and was arrested for attempting to sell royally commissioned furniture from the Chateau de la Muette. Anne-Rosalie had once lived at Muette and was appointed Superintendent of the chateau by Marie Antoinette after her husband's death. However, because all royally commissioned furniture was considered seized property of the new Republic, Anne-Rosalie, along with companion Marguerite-Émilie Chalgri, were charged with 'theft and concealment of property belonging to the Republic.' They were found guilty and sentenced to death.

Of the Filluel paintings that did survive to present day, few are quite as charming as her pastel paintings of the Chateau de Chantilly gardens. Her paintings capture the simple, sometimes rustic, yet overwhelmingly beautiful English-style gardens that came into vogue among the French upper elite in the 1770s and 1780s.

 image: The Grand Canal at the Chateau de Chantilly

 image: The Barn at the Chateau de Chantilly

 image: The Grotto at the Chateau de Chantilly
 image: The Hamlet at the Chateau de Chantilly

 image: The Menagerie at the Chateau de Chantilly

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A quick look at Madame Elisabeth by Joseph Ducreaux, 1770

[credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Daniel Arnaudet]

This portrait of a young Madame Elisabeth by Joseph Ducreux was painted in 1770, the same year that her new sister-in-law, Marie Antoinette, arrived from Vienna.

 [credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Daniel Arnaudet]

Elisabeth would have been only 5 or 6 at the time of the sitting. Although like many painted children, her face seems more mature than her years, there is still an element of cherubic youthfulness to her face in this portrait. This is exemplified by the simple nature of her headdress, which seems to be hiding a relatively simple and unadorned hairstyle.

[credit: (C) RMN-Grand Palais / Daniel Arnaudet]

Elisabeth is holding a small dog, likely a pug puppy, in the painting. Pugs during this time period had longer snouts and legs than their modern counterparts; it was not until about the 1860s that pugs with flatter faces and stouter bodies began to find their way onto the laps of the elite.

The  lace details on her dress and her sleeve are also clear in this cropped detail from the portrait. I especially love the delicacy of the lace on her dress and bodice. The dress Elisabeth is wearing also appears less formal (and much more comfortable!) than some of the dresses worn by many European royalty in portraits, despite their young ages. Perhaps this portrait was intended for her private apartments, rather than any sort of formal display.

Ducreaux's portrait of the young Elisabeth was recently displayed as part of the recent Madame Elisabeth exhibition in France.