Only a handful of historic figures have been the subject of such an abundance of representations: Marie-Antoinette is one of these, both during her lifetime and more notably after her death on 16 October 1793. Even today, this queen-turned-icon is still a key emblem in popular culture.
The exhibition illustrates the many representations of Marie-Antoinette through almost 200 works, artefacts, heritage and contemporary archives, never-before-seen interviews, film extracts and fashion accessories, and shine a light on this worldwide phenomenon of media overkill through both a historic approach and a critical and comparative examination of forms.
Marie-Antoinette at the Conciergerie
This section illustrates the final ten weeks that saw the most dramatic moments experienced by the queen in the “corridor of death”, during her trial by the Revolutionary Tribunal.
A number of memorial fetishes testify to this: shirt, shoe, belt, and archival documents from the trial and execution of the Queen
Marie-Antoinette’s life has been transformed since her death through numerous accounts and biographies, as well as testimonies and memories, from the Restoration to the present day, and from all points of view.
The exhibition will illustrate twenty events, both public and private, in Marie-Antoinette’s life, from her birth to her death, and including her official funeral in 1814.
The Image of the Queen
The figure of Marie-Antoinette is a veritable “expanse of images”, which can quickly be packaged to suit an event, a commemoration, the latest cultural trend or fashionable motif.
Thus, according to the era, this proliferation affected the official image of the queen, particularly the portraits of her by Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, the political images of the “martyred” queen, the historical imagery, the character portrayed on-screen and in Japanese manga.
Fetishes of the Queen
The relationship with Marie-Antoinette has often been passionate, creating cults, tributes, or, on the contrary, provoking violent attacks. Furthermore, it has often been subject to fantasy and imagination, on a level where intimacy can overlap with mythology.
The exhibition here displays a selection of images and objects, based on three motifs, symbolising Marie-Antoinette throughout history and the world.
– The Hair
– The Body
– The Severed Head
The Return of the Queen
Marie-Antoinette is experiencing a surprising revival, due to the modernization of the character, who has become a young woman of hers, and our time. It will be illustrated by the Japanese manga, which reinvented Marie-Antoinette in Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles; the biography of the English writer Antonia Fraser, Marie-Antoinette: The Journey; and its’ Hollywood adaptation by Sofia Coppola. Fashion has also appropriated the phenomenon associating the queen with several contemporary supermodels.
A fan cult has appropriated the figure of Marie-Antoinette, a phenomenon of globalised post-modernism, as commercial as it is cultural and ideological. The overriding style of this onslaught is a popularised form of pop art, and its diffusion affects all genres, every type of consumerism and every country.
The exhibition highlights this great blend of genres and objects, while revealing its commercial aspect.