The deeply unpopular French Queen Marie Antoinette and her Children are shown to us by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun as an attempt to recoup her 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 jewellery cabinet cut off by the edge of the picture and, with the centrality of the family, the queen prioritises human affinity above the allure of jewels.
Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun’s Marie Antoinette and her Children is at Versailles in France