"I want to see you in your proper place," wrote Maria Theresa, Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and archduchess of Austrias, to her daughter, Marie Antoinette. Politically astute, the Hapsburg Empress was anxious to see her daughter formally portrayed as Queen of France, but few artists met her rigid standards. The exception was Vigeé-Lebrun. The daughter of a portraitist and wife of a prominent art dealer, she initially painted informal portraits of the Queen and her children. Given the opportunity to paint state portraits, Vigeé-Lebrun astutely endowed Marie Antoinette with the formal dignity and regal hauteur that would appeal to her imperial parent. Clad in royal blue, her rectitude emphasized by a pillar, the Queen sits at a table that holds her crown. The book in her hands is stamped with the Bourbon and Hapsburg coats-of-arms, symbolizing the union cemented by her marriage to Louis XVI. The magnificent state portrait pleased both Empress and Queen. Virgeé-Lebrun was awarded membership in the Académie Royale and continuing royal patronage.


  • Title: Portrait of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France
  • Creator: Elisabeth Louise Vigeé Le Brun
  • Date Created: 1788
  • Location Created: France
  • Provenance: Museum purchase, Women's Volunteer Committee and Carrie Heiderich Fund

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