Toilet of the Duchess of Parma

François-Désiré Froment-MeuriceCirca 1847

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Commissioned in 1845 by a subscription of the Legitimist ladies of France for the marriage of Louise-Thérèse de Bourbon, grand-daughter of King Charles X, with the future duke Charles III of Parma, this toilet chest was completed in 1851 and presented in the same year at the World Fair in London.

The iconography of this ensemble, comprising a table and toiletry items, was intended to represent traditional French values and to exalt the virtues of marriage. French lilies and roses are intertwined with ivy, a symbol of marital fidelity. The portraits of twenty French ladies, famous for their piety, courage and literary talent, such as Blanche de Castille, Jeanne d'Arc and Clémence Isaure, decorate the jewellery cases whose shapes evoke 12th century Mosan reliquaries.

The ewer and basin are of Islamic and Renaissance inspiration, while the candlesticks are based on 17th century models in bronze. The ensemble presents an eclecticism which heralds the artistic fashion of the Second Empire (Pascale Ballestros-Gorguet, in the journal of the exhibition A golden age for decorative arts, Paris, 1991).

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