Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun: Marie Antoinette and her Children

Marie Antoinette and her Children: Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun

Marie Antoinette and her Children is a 1787 family portrait by French Rococo painter Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun.

Analysis of Marie Antoinette and her Children

The deeply unpopular French Queen Marie Antoinette and her Children are shown to us by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun as an attempt to recoup Marie Antoinette’s reputation.

This picture, painted in 1787 was commissioned by her husband Louis XVI, in the wake of the ‘affair of the diamond necklace’ whereby the queen was falsely accused of reneging on a promise to pay for the said necklace. She is shown here as a compassionate mother surrounded by her children.

The triangle formed by the group relates stability and contentment, yet as we are shown the empty cradle that was to contain a deceased daughter by the queen’s young son, there is also a note of grief. To the right is a jewelry cabinet cut off by the edge of the picture and, with the centrality of the family, the queen prioritizes human affinity above the allure of jewels.

Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun’s Marie Antoinette and her Children is at Versailles in France.

Marie Thérèse Charlotte

Marie Thérèse Charlotte (1778-1851), also known as Madame Royale, was the firstborn daughter of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. She was born on December 19, 1778, and was initially known as the Dauphine of France. Tragically, her parents were executed during the French Revolution, and she endured immense hardships while imprisoned in the Temple Tower. After her release, she married her cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, and lived in exile. Marie Thérèse Charlotte spent her life dedicated to preserving the memory of her family and became the last surviving child of Marie Antoinette.

Louis Charles

Louis Charles (1785-1795), also known as Louis XVII, was the second son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. He was born on March 27, 1785, and held the title of Dauphin of France after the death of his older brother, Louis Joseph. During the French Revolution, the young prince and his family were imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Louis Charles endured a difficult captivity and was subjected to harsh treatment. Tragically, he died at the age of ten in 1795, under mysterious circumstances. His untimely death marked the end of the direct Bourbon line and the hopes of restoring the monarchy.

Louis Joseph

Louis Joseph (1781-1789), the first son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, was born on October 22, 1781. As the Dauphin of France, he was heir to the throne. Louis Joseph was described as a bright and promising child, but his life was cut short by illness. He succumbed to tuberculosis at the tender age of seven, on June 4, 1789. His death was a devastating blow to his parents and a profound loss for the royal family. Louis Joseph’s passing occurred during the early stages of the French Revolution and added to the mounting challenges faced by the monarchy.

Legacy of the Children of Queen Marie Antoinette

The lives of Marie Thérèse Charlotte, Louis Charles, and Louis Joseph were marked by tragedy and upheaval. They were born into a time of political unrest and experienced the fall of the French monarchy. Their mother, Marie Antoinette, faced public scrutiny and eventually met a tragic end. While Marie Thérèse Charlotte survived to adulthood, her brothers Louis Charles and Louis Joseph had their lives cut short in their early years. These children were caught in the tumultuous times of the French Revolution and its aftermath, leaving an enduring legacy as symbols of a bygone era.

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