26 October 2011

What the wore: the Queen & Mr. Dickens

Probably every new and eagerly expected garment ever put on since clothes came in falls a trifle short of the wearer's expectations. Charles Dickens

painting of Marie Antoinette by Alexandre Kucharski, 1792, Versailles
This pastel was made at the Tuileries, but it was left unfinished. A pike's blow by a revolutionary is still visible low on the drawing. Many people said that the Queen had lost her beauty  & Kucharski showed her as her  more than her 36 years, but not so . It is a knowing that makes her appear not as the light hearted girl we imagine her to have been- but as a woman of the world.


  1. What a fantastic work of art... I love unfinished paintings

  2. The painting calls to mind that Marie Antoinette wore a white dress and white cap to her execution.

  3. The drawing would have been made during the period of confinement (imprisonment), no?
    __ The Devoted Classicist

  4. DC,
    Kucharsky had assumed the position of court painter after Vigee Le Brun left the positiion-after 1789, painting the royal children and other members of the court. This may have been painted as early as 91-some info seems to date it so-however more so to 92 and from what I have found was painted-and unfinished before the
    August storming of Versailles-and damaged in the melee. A later portrait attributed to K. is seen here- and painted in 93 http://www.artnet.com/artists/lotdetailpage.aspx?lot_id=F533B0C5EB30CF75671AEC2A55EEF004

  5. I agree with you that the psychological realism makes the portrait - and the sitter - more attractive and interesting rather than less. We were having a discussion over on the National Trust Libraries Facebook page about what makes a great historical book collection, and I think we concluded that the books had to be interesting in themselves, but the history of the collection and what it says about its owners and about us now is also important. So it seems there have to be both intrinsic and extrinsic factors to make a collection - or a single historical object - 'great' or relevant. And this Kucharski portrait does seem to have both: beautifully executed, apparently faithful to life and psychologically acute, but also poignant because of what was going to happen to the sitter and why it remained unfisnished, and of course with that ominous pike mark.

  6. 1789....Tuileries palace - October, she was in a chronic state of fear and duress. A husband who sank in food and wine, who would not fight his "children" of France, compounded with ministers and retinue left over from Versailles who were disappearing daily, and crowds that chanted outside their ground floor apartment windows would make anyone of us age beyond the pale...but she bore all as someone borne to the purple to the bitter end after having her children torn from her view, hearing her son crying nightly and made drunk while ravaged by diseased prostitutes to only hear him declare in court that she molested him...what face would we share to posterity after all this evil.

    Elegant and stoic.

  7. Emile, so true. I hope you will do a posting on collecting as per your discussion. "what was going to happen to the sitter" -always compelling- whether great successes or tragedy loomed and this is why we gather on your pages and I hope here as well. History is alive! by the way,I went to the Royal Oaks Gala last week when I was in NYC-wonderful evening for a wonderful cause. gaye

  8. The Swan, as always your contribution here is cherished & Elegant. Gaye



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