"Marie Antoinette in Court Dress" by Vigée-Lebrun, 1778
Over the centuries, the dramatic life of Marie Antoinette has continued to fascinate. Austrian born, she was just 15 when she arrived in France in 1770, fated to become its last queen. It’s questionable that she uttered “let them eat cake” when told peasants were starving. But she famously sported towering hairdos and enjoyed spending lavishly on frippery. However, she was also a committed patron of artists and composers. Her innovative commissions at Versailles include furniture, decorative objects, paintings, and beautifully staged interior design. Thirty portraits of Marie-Antoinette by her friend, the famous artist Elisabeth Vigé-Lebrun, still decorate the palace walls.
Decorative arts historian Stefanie Walker appraises Marie-Antoinette’s cultural legacy—and why the myths about her are so enduring.
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