A timeless figure at the Conciergerie
In the heart of Paris, the former palais de La Cité is paying tribute to the wife of Louis XVI. The exhibition “Marie-Antoinette; Metamorphoses of an image” explores all aspects of this fascinating Queen who was guillotined on 16 October 1793 in the place de la Concorde in Paris. Indeed, Marie-Antoinette spent the last weeks of her life behind the thick walls of the Conciergerie during the French Revolution. Far removed from the splendour of Versailles, this place marks the final destiny of she who was nicknamed, not without contempt, “the Austrian”, as she was the daughter of the German Holy Roman Emperor Francis 1st and Maria Theresa of Austria.
To help you gain a better understanding of this rich and complex character, no fewer than 200 artworks, texts, engravings of the era, fashion accessories, and extracts from a prolific filmography have been carefully collected from all over Europe, for presentation under five different sections.
An exhibition in five sections
You begin with a journey back in time, to the trial which was held in the Conciergerie and which ended with the last Queen of France being condemned to death. Items such as her shirt, one of her shoes and written archives bear witness to this tragic period. You will shiver as you reflect on this turbulent period of the French Revolution .
The theme entitled “The histories” adopts a lighter mood, as it retraces 20 events in the life of the woman who was married at the age of 14, became Queen of France at the age of 18, a mother at the age of 23 and was put to death at the age of 38. You will understand how extraordinary Marie-Antoinette's fate was, which doubtless explains the multiple and diverse portrayals of her.
In “The Image of the Queen”, linger in front of the portraits by Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun or the amazing painting by Botero in which the great queen is depicted in the rounded forms typical of the Columbian artist.
A fourth theme focuses on the fascination Marie-Antoinette has elicited and the influence she had on the fashions of the time through three symbols: her hair, her body and her severed head.
Finish your tour with “The Return of the Queen” where you will learn that nowadays she is the heroine of a manga by Riyoko Ikeda, a film by Sofia Coppola and the subject of a biography by Antonia Fraser… Both mysterious and fascinating, Marie-Antoinette's aura remains intact, making her appear sometimes as the embodiment of frivolity and sometimes as a victim or a woman of our time.
Marie-Antoinette, Metamorphoses of an image
From 16 October 2019 to 26 January 2020
2 boulevard du Palais
The Monarchy in mourning
Your visit having come to an end, you decide to continue your stay in Paris in the footsteps of Marie-Antoinette. Head for the Expiatory Chapel, which was built on the orders of Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI, on the site where the bodies of the Royal couple were first buried. Its construction began in 1815 and was completed in 1826. Meanwhile, the remains were transferred to the Royal Basilica of Saint-Denis (department of Seine-Saint-Denis) but the building remains suffused with the memory of the departed Royals.
To access it, you first go through the entrance pavilion and then the vestibule. You then enter the inner garden consisting of the Campo Santo (raised garden), created from sifted soil from the old graveyard, where there are cenotaphs to honour the Swiss guards killed during the capture of the Tuileries on 10 August 1792. All this is framed by a pathway with a double row of white rose bushes. Inside the Chapel, you are struck by its bareness and the feeling of contemplation desired by Louis XVIII.
Note the two white marble statues on either side facing each other; these represent the Royal couple. Move closer to read the inscriptions in the marble: this is the last letter which the queen sent to Madame Elisabeth, the king's sister. In these words carved in the stone, there is no glimpse of frivolity or grandiloquence: the queen is still emotionally unscathed.
29 rue Pasquier
+33(0)1 42 65 35 80
The peasant Queen
For the third stage of your quest, leave Paris for a rural interlude. Make your way to the chateau of Rambouillet, around sixty kilometres away from the capital. Tucked away in the heart of the estate, which became a royal residence under Louis XVI, is Marie-Antoinette's Dairy. This small building was built under the utmost secrecy on the king's request as a gift for his wife. He wanted her to be able to amuse herself here with her servants and her court during the interminable hunting parties in these game-filled forests. This “ornamental” dairy is a real gem of neoclassical architecture with the appearance of a Greek temple.
Nearby, the Nymphs' grotto is a reminder of the taste of the time for garden grottos – entitled follies – scattered around vast parklands. Make the most of this superb location and take a walk through the 20,000 hectares of the Rambouillet estate. You can almost see Marie-Antoinette playing the shepherdess in this pastoral setting.
The Queen's dairy
Château de Rambouillet
+33(0)1 34 83 00 25