1783 Marie Antoinette holding a rose by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun (Versailles)

This 1783 Vigée-Le Brun work may be the most well-known portrait of Marie-Antoinette. It was quickly painted in an attempt to calm the controversy caused by the "muslin portrait." Vigée-Lebrun painted many copies. Elements of the "muslin portrait" are retained - she wears a hat and holds a rose while wearing a bertha with two flounces and a skirt with two flounces.

Vigée-Lebrun portrays Marie-Antoinette wearing a robe a l'Anglaise in 1783 in this, the most well-known, portrait of her. The robe a l'Anglaise supplanted the robe a la Francaise for all but court wear by the time this picture was painted. Her dress is the essence of a French Queen with satin, lovely lace trim, and a cute bow at the center of her decolletage. The Metropolitan Museum has this definition of a robe a l'Anglaise, "The robe a l'anglaise was an open robe consisting of a bodice cut in one piece with an overskirt that was parted in front to reveal a matching petticoat. Its fitted bodice did not have the center back pleats, often referred to as the "Watteau back," that typified the equally popular style of the robe a la Francaise." I have used swellings behind the sitter to identify robes a la Francaises, the lack of such a swelling plus an under-skirt matching the over-skirt and bodice identify a dress as a robe a l'Anglaise. In many open robes, the bodice and over-skirt match, but the open front reveals a different under-skirt (petticoat). Many early Victorian-late Beidemeier dresses could be called open robes and robes a l'Anglaises.

The flounces of her over-skirt join beneath the bow at the center of her neckline like the sides of a tent. She probably wears a vee waistline, but that cannot be resolved, even with detail-enhancement. Over all, the appearance of her dress is simple - but opulent.

Keywords:  1783, Vigée-Lebrun, Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess, Queen, Habsburg family, Bourbon family, French, long bouffant straight coiffure, feathered hat, square decolletagee, modesty piece, bows, bertha, lace, elbow length tight sleeves, engageantes, waist band, full skirt, tent over-skirt, flounces, robe a l'Anglaise


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