Saturday, December 29, 2007

Marie Antoinette and Le Petite Trianon

The show at the Legion on Marie Antoinette’s decorative arts, paintings and sculpture that adorned the Petite Trianon is quite sumptuous. Based on the Grand Trianon, a retreat area the King had enjoyed as a child, Petit Trianon was completed on the Versailles grounds in 1768. Initially built as a gift from Louis XV to his mistress Madame de Pompadour, the main building of this “natural getaway” features architecture in the new neo-Classical style and exceptional interior woodwork.

When Louis XVI took the throne in 1775, he gave Petit Trianon as a gift to Marie Antoinette. Despite the fact that no cost was spared to make the building over to suit the Queen's taste and allow her to make it her own, it never really lost the taint of being associated with the most dominant royal mistress in French history. (PBS website).

18th Century artwork has never held much interest for me but it was fascinating to view the original works – works that have been copied so often and so poorly. They have an exquisite delicacy that reproductions cannot capture. Images of roses and cornflowers adorn everything – including some of the fancy porcelain that was used in the dairy at Trianon – show her exquisite taste but also, her complete distance from the reality of the majority of the French at the time. The carved and gilded furniture and the beautifully recreated rooms give a taste of what life must have been like for the elite, where, as Talleyrand said, “Whoever did not live in the years neighboring 1789 does not know what the pleasure of living means.”
[Fr., Qui n'a pas vecu dans les annees voisines de 1789 ne sait pas ce que c'est le palisir de vivre.]
(Images from the Legion’s website; information on Marie Antoinette from the PBS and Legions’ website).

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