21 September 2010

dreaming of Liotard


Madame painted in 1787 
by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard

Separated by centuries- these scenes- now summoning me. Liotard's Marie Adélaïde of France, fille de Louis XV, en robe turque. The reader-sitter was known as Madame Quatrième -"Madame the Fourth" and later- Madame. She never married- saw every court intrigue imaginable, participated in them- of course. She managed to outlive her Father King, many siblings and her doomed nephew and his family- Madame escaped the terror in France, leaving on October 6 1789.

the rooms of Adélaïde's sister -Victoire- in Versailles 
Adélaïde's must have been much the same

Her momentary respite from the restricting fashions of court in Liotard's evocative painting may have suited her- she and her sisters- Victoire being one- were known to defy  the court's dress dictates and simply wore panniers with a coat when leaving their rooms at Versailles. Though a part of the father's reign & less influential- the sisters as Aunt's of the now King- were a part of Marie Antoinette retinue on occasion. For the most part they seem to have done as they pleased. 

100 years later- London.

A room in the flat of Michael Szell*. A reading chair -quite wrong for Madame's rooms in Naples-

The room- exotic, cocooning, could well  serve as a haven for a once regaled Princess' haunting memories. I can see her lost in thought reading a letter from some other French exile recalling their shared grandeur and loss. Would she wrap herself in that mysterious golden embroidered robe so much a part of a Liotard painting as some small consolation?

& today-light years beyond Madame's life and even the Szell room, we find Michael Smith's distillation of those times. Not a trend, the use of  the suzani is timeless-that it predominates in the work of Michael Smith is evidence enough.

Here- in the simplest of terms-with the most extravagant of details, designer Michael Smith's own bedroom.

The aging Princesses fled to Naples and lived out their days there, dying within a year of each other; Princess Victoire first in 1799 and Liotard's once lovely & wistful Adélaïde- as the century turned. She was 67.

*Michael Szell, a renowned textile designer covered the walls of this room in a malachite printed linen of a Persian design and a silk suzani covers the bed.
Szell image from AD's International Interiors




  1. They were definitely interesting characters - some might go as far to call them spoiled brats, but you must admit they witnessed some of the most interesting aspects of history (at least to me!)

  2. Stefan, So it seems, It would seem to go with the territory, Can you just imagine that life at that time. What interests me is that they did not marry-and weren't forced to marry- and seem to live happily ever after. Of course I like this sort of ending! pgt


  4. Dear Gaye, that was really interesting. I love Michael Szell's prints. Thank you for the introduction xx



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