Marie-Antoinette: Mother & Queen

Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, and her children by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Marie-Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, queen of France, and her children (1787) by Elisabeth Louise Vigée-LebrunPalace of Versailles

We are in 1787 and the affair of the queen’s necklace is still present in French people’s minds.

The queen wishes to show herself as a loving mother, surrounded by her children in a composition inspired by Renaissance images of the Holy Family.

The queen is depicted in an architectural setting complete with columns and draperies. Her clothing reflects the fashion of the time: she is wearing a hat and a red velvet dress.

In the background we can see the jewellery cabinet designed by Bélanger, which she used first as Dauphine and then as queen.

Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François, Dauphin of France, is pointing towards the cradle of Sophie-Hélène-Beatrix, fourth royal child, who died two months before the opening of the Salon where the painting was presented.

The Dauphin Louis-Joseph is wearing blue material and the Cross of the Order of the Holy Spirit, indicating that he is the heir to the crown.

On her lap the queen is holding Louis-Charles, duke of Normandy, who became Dauphin on the death of his older brother in 1789 then Louis XVII after the execution of Louis XVI. The blue sash around his chest indicates that he is a royal child.

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, later nicknamed Madame Royale, is tenderly holding Marie-Antoinette’s arm.

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