Marie-Thérèse de Bourbon, Princesse de Conti by Pierre Mignard (auctioned by Christie's)

Upgrade image posted 25 July 2014 from dressingterpsichore.artemis; removed "x" in upper right corner and craked paint flaws, mainly on exposed skin. Size adjusted to 60 cm high at 28.35 pixels/cm.

Marie-Thérèse de Bourbon, Princesse de Conti by Pierre Mignard (auctioned by Christie's) From dressingterpsichore.artemis removed "x" in upper right corner

I was surfing the Internet and found an article in Dressing Terpsichore posted by Kate, a historical dancer and costumer, on 16 October 2012, "The underbust saga continues – at the Paris Opera, and with some Bourbon ladies," about half bodices of the type seen here. I started reading the The article and found this Site was mentioned and this image and two others were reproduced there. Kate's posting states:  "One of the reasons I believe that Jacobean masquers really did wear bodices cut under the bust is that you see the same line a few decades later, across the Channel.

The picture in question (first illustration in her posting) is one of my very favourite illustrations of dance costume – Mlle Subligny, dancing at the Opera. Her bodice is cut right under the bust, with just a couple of straps going between the breasts and up to the sleeve heads (similar to the arrangement on the portrait of a lady dressed as Flora in the post linked to above).

She is clearly wearing some kind of substantial shift, so modesty is preserved (and I hope it's offering some support for her during all those contretemps). But still, the bodice is clearly cut under the bust. And this is not a costume sketch, like the Inigo Joneses – it's a picture of her actual self.  I've only come across three French 1680s-90s theatrical prints with a bodice cut in this way. The others are costume sketches – one for for an Indian woman from the Triumph of Love (and the skirt length on that might suggest that that character was danced by a man), and the other for Urania, from Psyche (definitely danced by a man).

For the most part, the 'So-and-so dancing at the Opera' prints show the ordinary bodice line, whether the costume is all'antica (ie their idea of what the ancients wore), or something closer to contemporary fashion (there are several which are just fancy mantuas)...

(This image, an image of the Duchesse du Maine, and an image of Louise-Francoise de Bourbon, Princesse Conde follow.)

Three great Bourbon ladies, having their portraits done all'antica, and all wearing an underbust bodice.  In fact, they all seem to be wearing the same red-and-gold underbust bodice. Perhaps it was in the Bourbon costume cupboard, or perhaps it belonged to an artist's studio.

Or, possibly, this is one of those situations where the sitter chooses from a set of stock body-and-costume options, and the painter then just paints her head onto it. The second two portraits have the same pose, which would lend credence to that theory.

The first painting is a little different – different pose, different skirt. But still, the same strappy bits on the arms, the same little scallops at the bottom (which are a typical all'antica feature, and also seen on Subligny's costume).

Interestingly, if you look closely, these ladies have more than just a shift under their bodice – there seems to be a layer of slightly darker whiteish silk over the shift and under the bodice. In all three paintings, it's pinned on one shoulder, but covers both breasts.

There's not much swell of bosom visible. I'm not sure whether that's just artistic convention (the way the second bit of silk behaves under the point of the bodice doesn't look very realistic to me), or whether the model was small-bosomed, or whether she might have been wearing another set of stays underneath.

But, nonetheless, it does appear to be portraying an actual all'antica garment, actually cut under the bust."

Young Marie-Thérèse is shown wearing a half bodice and a turn-of-the-century curly coiffure (without Fontanges headdress) in this Mignard portrait. The substantial shift Kate mentions (called an under-bodice in the keywords) could be used to reduce chafing for the comfort of the wearer. A bodice with   the scallops Kate mentions is called a "tabbed bodice." The absence of a Fontanges headdress dates this into the 1680s. Mignard died in 1695.

Keywords:  Marie-Thérèse de Bourbon-Condé, Princess, Bourbon family, French, long curly coiffure, vee neckline, chemise, modesty piece, elbow length puffed sleeves, engageantes, lace, cuffs, under-bodice, half bodice, tabbed bodice, girdle, vee waistline, full skirt, jeweled arm bands, clasps, jeweled bodice, wrap


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