It is always dangerous to try to learn history from a commercial movie, especially one which sets its action to pop songs, no matter how congruent the mood of the songs is with the over-the-top nature of the era. However, because Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola , and starring Kirsten Dunst, was filmed with Versailles, Chantilly, and Paris Opera interiors, there is a certain minimum of accurate inference about the 18th century that can be drawn from this work.
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It is possible also to tick off the widely accepted facts or persistent rumors about the doomed Dauphine and the court, as the movie touches lightly and stylishly on them. Inferences about the social order, the status of women, daily life in the court, clothing (although sometimes by omission), and interior design can all be gleaned from this re-telling of the Austrian Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Joanna’s story as teenage coming-of-age narrative.
The most obvious message that comes through in the movie is the rigid and unbending hierarchy that the ancien regime imposed on itself and the rest of the nation. The king was at the top, by divine right, and everyone else was in a step-wise ranking below him, with the peasants at the bottom.
The movie makes the point early on, humorously and painfully, that the task of assisting the rulers with even their most intimate activities was a privilege assigned by protocol and etiquette. The Mistress of the Household (named the Comtesse de Noailles) explains all this to the bemused Dauphine, and choreographs arrivals and turns in line, according to rank and relation, lest the Dauphine lift her hand to help herself by mistake.
This custom, as is clear from the shivering anorexic form of Dunst waiting to be clad in a shift in her lavishly ornamented bedchamber, was not a luxury, but a duty. On the other hand, the Comtesse de Noailles actively and visibly avoids embracing the Archduchess upon being presented to her, presumably because that would be a sign of disrespect, despite the clear implication that a hug was what the 14 year old needed at that moment more than anything else.
Every action done by or to the ruler (and any potential ruler), no matter how personal, constituted a national action. Every action, therefore, justified the observation and participation of the loyal nobility. Note that Marie Antoinette’s nephew is born in the full sight of at least the distaff portion of the court, and the exhausted and haggard mom is viewed immediately after birth by the nobility of both sexes. Not even the most hounded celebrity today would tolerate such an imposition.
Likewise Marie Antoinette’s own children, even more critical to the survival of the nation, are delivered under the gaze of her subjects, and paraded shortly after birth to assure the people that the throne was, for the moment, safe (more on that delusion later). The birth of an heir to the throne was an event of moment, and the nobles wanted to be sure that there were no switches of one baby for another.
Every bite that entered their mouths was also specially arranged on the plate and tasted by somebody (it looked as though the Mistress of the Household was fulfilling this critical service), presented to them with elaborate ceremony and a cast of dozens . The royals were watched carefully for sign of choking, poisoning, or displeasure.
All these personal services and intrusions into personal life symbolically reinforced for the king, and the nobles, and the rest of the country, the special and near divine nature of royalty, and, by implication, the dangers of disrupting that system or attacking those very special individuals.
Another message that comes through very clearly is the level of consumption that prevailed in the court of Versailles and elsewhere in the privileged classes.
This was considered to some extent to be a positive support for domestic production of all goods and services . As evidence, note the fact that, in the movie, the Archduchess is stripped of foreign products, even her lap dog, before adopting her new life as a figurehead for the French nation.
The luxuries of the royalty were not universally disapproved of, however. The notable philosophe, Charles Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, famously wrote regarding this issue, “Were the rich not to be lavish, the poor would starve”. However, the indulgent and oblivious excesses of many nobles, and especially Marie Antoinette, became catalysts in the ferment that resulted in the Revolution, and, ultimately, her own downfall, as we see later in the movie.
The status of women
Like most women of the 18th century, Marie Antoinette’s choices with regard to her marital status were largely out of her control. All women in 18th century France, were expected to marry, and only special circumstances (such as family economy or a strong religious inclination) would justify deviating from this model.
For royal houses, marriage was a matter of politics above all. Had the young Austrian Archduchess declined the French offer of marriage, not only would she have endangered the status of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as her mother and her country’s ambassador make abundantly clear , but it is also conceivable that she would have been either married off to some other man swiftly, or consigned to a convent, to avoid embarrassment, and any hint of scandal.
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Those are the logical alternatives for her worried parents. For less politically visible women, for example, women of the urban professional class, single life, usually as the doyenne of a brother’s home, or living with parents, or both, was a legitimate alternative.
As a wife, in the political hothouse of France’s court, even wedding vows could not ensure Marie Antoinette’ s security and stability. She was the designated vessel for the bearing of a legitimate heir to the throne.
If she were unsuccessful, she risked being put aside and sent home in shame, with the relations between Austria and France in danger, as her mother’s voice reminds her in voice-over. Even bearing sons was not enough – they had to survive to take the throne (and the sad scene of a tiny coffin being borne off makes clear). Her apparent unwillingness and/or inability to conceive leaves her socially and politically vulnerable.
Her failure to conceive exposes her, otherwise sacrosanct in her royal person, to the rude and cutting remarks of her subjects, for example, as she walks with constrained speed through the windowed gallery past the women who fling comments at her about giving them an heir. Thus, the movie emphasizes the limited role that women could play officially in France in that era.
The movie does not give much attention to Marie Antoinette’s unofficial power, except in the case of her grandfather-in-law’s mistress. The longing and demands for recognition by Marie Antoinette of Madame Du Barry, force the young woman to swallow her moral and aesthetic objections. She elects to acknowledge the king’s favorite during a morning walk-by through the palace.
Even the king’s good will and the Dauphine’s tolerance, however, are not enough to prevent Madame Du Barry’s ignominious eviction from Versailles upon the eve of her royal patron’s death by smallpox. However, a style force until the end, Du Barry’s gorgeous violet cloak certainly made a striking fashion statement as she swirled away into the waiting carriage, like the unwelcome bad fairy at the christening of Sleeping Beauty (but with matched luggage).
Clothing and identity:
Near the start of the film, we watch, with horror, as the Archduchesse is re-garbed in the pass-through that delivered her to her new life as Dauphine, naked and presumably shivering under the gaze of the French delegation. This scene reinforces how important clothes were to the creation of identity, as was emphasized by the frosty directions of the Mistress of the Household, the Comtesse de Noailles.
Every item that the Dauphine wore, carried, ate, drank, or used, clearly sent a message about her national affinity, and her support for the substantial body of seamstresses and sempsters, textile manufacturers, shoemakers, milliners, wig-makers, hair dressers, cosmeticians, perfume manufacturers, parasol makers, carriage makers, craftsmen of all sorts of furnishings, and cooks and pastry chefs, as well as the farmers and gardeners who produced the ingredients for her table, and the musicians who created entertainment for her ears.
We are aware of all these people only through the results of their labor, for the most part.
We see her, as noted earlier, in her bedroom, forced to wait to be dressed by ladies-in-waiting. While this custom is likely to have been accurate in some respects, it was certainly not what the vast majority of women would have experienced in terms of fresh linen.
Most people of both sexes wore some version of the shift that Marie Antoinette shivers in, but those who slept in cold or less private conditions probably wore one all the time, under all their clothes, and in all circumstances, bed included. They might change it every once in a while, but hardly every day. Laundry doubtless involved at least a week of turnaround time, if not more, given that everything had to air dry, and all fibers were natural.
We watch as Dunst is encased symbolically in a cage-like frame that held her skirts away from her, giving her the wide hipped, narrow-waisted silhouette that was prized until after Neo-classicism and Republicanism imposed the high Empire waist and chitin-like drape of thin fabrics on the ladies of France.
These wide skirts occasioned satire, and censure on the part of the Church (Coudes, Panniers a 2010). We see her beckoning to her lover wearing stockings (these looked suspiciously transparent for being made of silk, which would have been the only available fabric anywhere near thin enough) held up by decorative garters.
We do not see underpants, which is appropriate, since this undergarment was not invented yet. She would have worn at least 3 or more layers at any time, as we see at various points in the movie: shift, corset and stays, petticoat, a dress in however many layers the specific design called for, stockings, and perhaps a scarf to fill in her neckline.
The variety and creativity involved in dressing a noblewoman, or indeed any woman who wore more than the minimum required to do labor, demonstrates that fashioin was indeed an art form. Here are some samples of the styles, fabrics, and decorative media which were available to dressmakers of the day: “Italian rose and blue silk changeant taffeta suit with red foil and hammered silver buttons and embroidery”, or this delicious description, “green and ivory serpentine silk damask robe à la francaise”
The movie does not show as many of the characteristic sky high hairdos of the era as it might have. Perhaps they were unbecoming to Ms. Dunst, or perhaps she could not manage the poise of the head required to keep such an arrangement in place. Some small hint of the absurdity of the architecture of hair at the time is shown when the queen and her ladies-in-waiting sport model ships in their hair, and when Ms. Dunst thanks her hair dresser for a bulbous, soufflé of a “do” that moves independently of her head.
Shoes were fragile and acted as a colorful accessory for privileged women. Peasant women would have been wearing clogs (sometimes called sabots) or some variation thereof. Note that Dunst’s costumes are cut short enough for her to walk without tripping, and also short enough to show off her wardrobe of highly ornamented shoes. This seems practical.
The royal bed in the movie, a blatant advertisement for French needlework skills, with its floral ornamentation, would have necessarily been a noisome affair in comparison with the cheapest sleeping arrangement from IKEA today.
The mattress would have been filled with some natural stuffing, such as straw, horsehair, cattail fluff, or milkweed fluff, which probably came with its own resident vermin. It was possibly supported by ropes, or planks, so there would have been little bounce or give. If not aired and turned regularly, all such beds were, and are still, a nightmare of dampness.
The canopy that sheltered the royal bed probably doubled as a shield from vermin dropping from the ceiling. The magnificent crewel worked bed curtains gave a minimum of privacy for the sleeper while actually asleep, but their function was also to prevent drafts in rooms heated only by wood burning fireplaces or stoves (later).
Food was scarce for the vast majority of the population in France. By the time the Bastille was stormed in the 1780’s, people had been for years rioting and complaining about bread subsidies, as noted in the movie’s rare scene of statesmanlike discussion by the king.
And in spite of this suffering on the part of their countrymen, as the movie reminds us, Marie Antoinette and the nobility in general were self-indulgent and wasteful in the extreme. The scene that brings this point home is the post party clean up, when the beautifully dressed servants collect plate after plate of half-consumed fruit and cream pastries (including magnificent berries, a particularly expensive fruit to grow, even today).
She may not have said the famous quote attributed to her about substituting cake for bread, but she was certainly not helping matters with her spending and wastefulness on food, among other items.
The magnificent and decorative food that was ceremonially served to her and her husband every day was probably the least of it, but recreating a single formal dinner could take weeks, and most of the table decoration of sculptures of sugar and gum Arabic would have, after all that effort, been inedible. Marie Antoinette’s “casual”, champagne-drenched entertaining was where the really thoughtless waste probably occurred.
When people are tipsy and allowed to serve themselves, even today, they muck up the food they have helped themselves to, lose their plates, drop things, make a mess of serving platters, get distracted, and walk off, leaving behind their serving, and generally engage in a whole set of oblivious behaviors which is certainly borne out in the various party scenes in the movie.
The movie reflects pretty accurately the pitiable state of medical knowledge and practice in the 18th century, although there were certainly advances being made throughout the period.
The smallpox which carries off Louis Auguste’s grandfather would not be preventable even on an experimental basis until the 1790’s. No one, not even the critical child-bearer, Marie Antoinette, is kept away from him, or his body, because no fully articulated theory of micro-organisms existed. However, the word “germs” was, indeed, used for the first time in the 1700s .
When a physician, Dr. Lassonne, is called in to consult with the young couple about their childlessness, his efforts do not seem to involve a physical examination, or many questions a modern patient would recognize as appropriate to a check-up, but he does inquire as to the king’s breakfast (Louis Auguste reports, and this news is received with all serious attention, that he drank hot chocolate).
The responsibility of the man in achieving mutual fertility was not fully understood or accepted, as indicated by the scorn with which she is treated by her public.
The need for semen to achieve impregnation was proved in this century, but by an Italian, so perhaps the French did not accept this notion with enthusiasm. Marie Antoinette and Louis Auguste lose at least two of their children very young, which shows that even great privilege did not shield the wealthy and powerful from the infectious diseases which today would be dismissed with a 10 day course of antibiotic.
It is tempting to speculate whether the fact that she was discouraged from nursing her own children by the ladies of the Court, including the Comtesse de Noailles, could have contributed to a lack of immune robustness on the part of her children. The 18th century was a time of intense confusion over the nature of a woman’s body, and there was lively discussion by philosophes, such as Rousseau and others, of the issue of nursing, the role of the breast, whether women’s bodies were truly different from men.
There was a fundamental conflict between two trends. One intellectual trend was to keep women in the home and out of the halls of power, which would bolster the argument for mothers nursing their own babies and forgoing wet-nurses.
The other philosophical movement was aimed at imposing on women the responsibility of wives to be, and to remain fully available to their husbands to prevent their husbands from succumbing to their uncontrollable sexual desires and commit a sin such as masturbation or infideli ty.
This discussion is beyond the scope of this paper, but the apparently simple request of the Queen to nurse her own children and the apparently cut and dried response of the Mistress of the Household all conceal a mass of philosophical, social, and medical conflict and confusion, much of which still persists today.
Culture, Arts, and Design
We see Marie Antoinette going to church on a daily basis and finding herself variously bored, distracted, constrained, scolded, and, based on the music we hear in the background, entertained. We do not see her obviously inspired or uplifted spiritually, which may reflect the gradual movement towards secularization and laicization that Allen describes as characterizing this period.
Versailles was a self-contained community, and it had its own chapel, perhaps even the one shown in the movie, served by a resident choir, soloists, orchestra, and composer . Like every other aspect of life in Versailles, its design reinforced the implacable message of hierarchical rigidity, as well as lavish consumption.
The service was a gathering time for the royal household and all who could justify being there. As Allen quotes John McManners in a review of his book on the role of the Catholic church in 18th century France, “Since, as a social obligation, everyone went to church, the congregation brought its social hierarchy, feuds, worldly concerns, yearnings for companionship, and sense of the ridiculous into the nave when it came to worship.”
The movie does not address the simmering discontent with the church which was famously articulated by the philosophies.
Dancing and Balls
At the start of the film, we see the newlywed couple dancing what is likely to have been a minuet at their own wedding ball. This very complex and formal dance is described by Fader as “a dance better suited to bals par;és since it was typically danced by one, or sometimes two, couples using an elaborate Z-figured floor pattern.” The bals pares were dances given by the king for the nobility exclusively.
They were gradually supplanted by less formal social forms, both in terms of the event itself, and the sort of dancing involved. Later in the movie, we see the Dauphine escaping Versailles, in one of the few off-campus transgressions portrayed, to attend just such a ball. These events were clearly a way for all those in the privileged classes, who could afford a ticket, to mingle.
We see her and her friends discuss the need or lack thereof for a written invitation, but both she and her husband attend en masque, without announcement. She flirts with Fersen, then a young foreign military officer, whom she would not normally have had occasion to meet.
There is the possibility that such events were staged as a deliberate distraction from disturbing current issues  (a more elegant and higher class version of “bread and circuses”, perhaps) (Juvenal 2010). At a bal masque, there was the opportunity for pseudo sexual pursuit that she and Count Fersen undertook, concealed anonymously, at least in theory, behind the scraps of fabric that acted as masks. (Fader 2005, 383)
Marie Antoinette expresses a wish to see the opera in Paris, but mainly hears opera at the court theatre, where she inaugurates the custom of applauding at court performances. This custom is used later in the movie as a symbol of her changing status. When she falls out of favor, the nobles refuse to clap with her.
The use of women in opera was fairly new, and Marie Antoinette’s own participation in her own staging of a performance would have been quite shocking. The taint of impropriety lingered around all activities in the theatre until very recently, and well-bred young ladies were not encouraged to go on stage even in living memory. Her imposition of her uncertain talents, or lack thereof, on a captive audience of courtiers was, at the least, ostentatiously self-indulgent.
We see Marie Antoinette with her friends, reading the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau,. The movie seems to make a connection both between the Queen’s new status as a mother, and her readings of Rousseau, and the gift to her by her husband of the little model farm; Trianon. Rousseau is popularly associated with the idea that man is healthiest and most moral when closest to nature, although this notion is often misinterpreted .
His ideas still have an impact on education, art, and philosophy today. This bucolic scene of read-aloud reminds us that women, often in the role of hostesses of intellectual salons, were the supporters and promoters of many new ideas, but in a way that could be reconciled with their limited societal roles.
Versailles was the epitome of the decorative excess of the 1700’s, as is clear from the lavish rooms used in the movie. Every surface is ornamented. The furniture is variously decorated and shaped with motifs from nature (leaves, flowers, vines) or classical art (heroic figures, columns, pedestals). Ms. Dunst lolls very unrealistically in a small delicate chair, a posture which would be a physical impossibility if she were dressed in the stays and corset of the time. Later, she collapses after an all-night party onto a half-chair, half-sofa.
This piece looks as though it was an example of the style popularized by Madame De Recamier, a worldly hostess. The advantage of this design is not obvious to the viewer, based on Ms. Dunst’s position in sleep (movie actress sleep, of course). Her hairdo is not any better supported than it would have been in a regular bed, or so it appears.
In looking at all the furniture, it becomes apparent that one of the reasons to build a personal play-farm at Trianon could have been the desire for comfort. Marie Antoinette had to have been delighted to have access to a place where she was able to wander around without stays sticking into her ribs, and where she could sit in or on comfortable furniture (although we see less of the furnishings of Trianon). As a bonus, she was still being waited on and rowed about on the pond by a liveried servant, as we see in a lovely scene.
The wall treatments are very light in color, probably because this would reflect a lot of natural light in rooms lit otherwise only by candles. The magnificent hall of mirrors is probably decorated that way for the same reason. The potential amount of mercury in those mirrors is terrifying. (The number of tapers burnt for one dinner probably equaled the yearly candle budgets for many households.)
Rooms are generously sized, perhaps because they had to hold many courtiers at once to wait on the king or queen (or for dancing). Most of the doors are double, which would be necessary to accommodate the extravagantly wide skirts. The same is true of staircases visible in the movie, which are all designed to allow for grand entrances.
Architecture and Gardens
The overarching theme of the buildings’ exteriors is symmetry and balance, with everything at precise angles, including the gardens. The fountains must have been a wonder of innovative engineering, considering that there was no indoor plumbing.
Nature in the palace gardens was completely controlled in every way possible; planted, clipped, raked, graveled, punctuated at regular intervals by classically inspired statuary or urns. This ideal expressed at Versailles was in complete contrast to theories of garden design which developed later, which emphasized an apparent congruence with untamed nature. It was also clearly not yet influenced by the faux nature reproduced in Chinese garden designs .
There is very little mention of politics in the movie. We are reminded that France spent ruinously on trying to not let England win at anything, even against the Anglophone colonies.
This support was given in spite of Louis Auguste’s misgivings about supporting an anti-monarchical movement – a view which seems prescient in retrospect, since the American colonies’ revolution was inspiring to the French populace ten years later. France’s help was vital in helping the American colonies obtain and maintain their independence, but it was way too much money for the French treasury to handle, in combination with domestic expenses.
We are reminded that the people of France were suffering, through references to bread subsidies. However, the bloody threat of it is not brought in to the picture until the very end. The attempt to flee, the farewell to Versailles, and the final scene of shocking vandalism are the only hint that the viewer receives of the violent end to Marie Antoinette’s life and that of the whole royal family.
This movie focuses on the emotional surface, and the decorative surfaces of Marie Antoinette’s life, at the end, as it does all the way through. However, since so much of what was irritating to the revolutionaries was, indeed, the visible surface of her life, this may be a legitimate perspective. This overwhelming revulsion against the decorative is expressed in the movie by the closing shot of her bedroom, wrecked and ruined.
Even given its clear bias towards showing Marie Antoinette as a lonely, sex-starved young woman who was substituting clothes and food for what she really wanted (competent marital relations and affection), this movie has something to say about the era, if only by omission in some areas. The prevailing social order was reinforced by every product used and every action taken by the royal family, and this characteristic of the era is communicated clearly in the movie.
“”Marie Antoinette.”.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Biography Resource Center: Gale Research. 1998. Web.
Adams, Christine. “A choice not to wed? Unmarried women in eighteenth-century France.” Journal of Social History 29, no. (Summer 1996): 883-894.
Allen, James Smith. “Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France (a review of Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France. Vols I-II, by John McManners, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).” The Historian 63, no. 3 (Spring 2001): 682-684.
Burson, Jeffrey D. “The Crystallization of Counter-Enlightenment and Philosophe Identities: Theological Controversy and Catholic Enlightenment in Pre-Revolutionary France.” Church History 77, No. 4 (December, 2008):955-1002, 77, no. 4 (December 2008): 955-1002.
Chambers, William. Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils. Vol. 2, in A Documentary History of Art: Michelangelo, the Mannerists, the Baroque, and the Eighteenth Century, edited by Elizabeth Gilmore Holt, 293-304. Print. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1958.
“Childbirth in the 18th Century.” Humboldt University. 2010. Web.
Coronation of the British monarch. 2010. Web.
Coudes, Panniers Á. 2010. Web.
Day, Ivan. “An 18th Century Princely Table.” Hillwood Museum. 2010. Web.
“Eighteenth Century Medicine.” Humboldt University. 2010. Web.
Fader, Don. “Review (The Bals publics at the Paris Opera in the Eighteenth Century, by Richard Semmens, Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, NY, 2004).” Notes 62, no. 2 (2005): 380-382.
Fashion in the Late 1700s: Fashion and Clothing Reflecting Political and Cultural Change. 2008. Web.
Fraser, Antonia, and Sofia Coppola. Marie Antoinette. Film. Directed by Sofia Coppola. Produced by Sofia Coppola, Ross Katz and Francis Ford Coppola. Performed by Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartz. Columbia Pictures., 2006.
Gaskell, Ivan. “Costume, Period Rooms, and Donors: Dangerous Liaisons in the Art Museum.” The Antioch Review 62 no4 615-23 Fall 2004. Fall 2004. Web.
Hillwood Museum and Gardens. Summer’s Focus: The Luxury Arts of 18th-century France Overview. 2010. Web.
“Jean Jacques Rousseau.” The International Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010. Web.
Juvenal, D. J. “Satires 10.77–81 (circa 100 C.E.).” The Latin Library. 2010. Web.
Kreis, Steven. Écrasez l’infâme!:The Triumph of Science and the Heavenly City of the 18th Century Philosophe. 2000. Web.
Lastinger, V. “Re-defining motherhood: breast-feeding and the French enlightenment.” General One File. Gale Group. 1996. Web.
Lowell, Lauren. Georgian/Roccoco Overview: Undergarments, 18th Century. 2008. Web.
Maginnis, Tara. “18th Century Women’s Hair and Wigs.” The Costumer’s Manifesto. 1996-2008. Web.
Montesquieu, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de. “The Spirit of Laws, Book 7:Consequences of the Different Principles of the Three Governments with Respect to Sumptuary Laws, Luxury, and the Condition of Women, section 4.” Constitution.org. 2010. Web.
Sawkins, Lionel. “The Sun King at Worship; a book review of Alexandre Maral, La chapelle royale de Versailles sous Louis XIV: cérémonial, liturgie et musique (Sprimont, Belgium: Mardaga, 2002).” Early Music 33, no. 1 (Fall 2005): 119-121.
- Antonia Fraser and Sofia Coppola, “Marie Antoinette”, 2006, Columbia Pictures, starring Kirsten Dunst, and Jason Schwartz. The location credits list these as well as other actual sites (Fraser and Coppola 2006)
- It is worth noting that the Marie Antoinette’s magnificent linen shift that Dunst is garbed in was the equivalent to the basic garment worn next to the skin by most folk over a period of several centuries, but most of the population would not have changed it more than a few times a season, whereas we led to believe by the movie that Marie Antoinette was given fresh linen daily, and then some more for wearing while bathing. This level of luxury would likely have been beyond the reach of all but a fraction of the country’s residents, given that bathing was famously not even a common daily activity anywhere in Europe until very recently, and a visit to the deodorant section of a European store suggests that the custom still is not universal.
- Lionel Sawkins, “The Sun King at Worship,” Early Music 33, No.1 (Fall, 2005):119-121. The royal couple dine while being serenaded by undoubtedly original music which no doubt entered the nation’s musical canon once having been performed for the royal household, if the pattern was the same as for religious music as suggested by Sawkins. (Sawkins 2005, 119)
- “Summer’s Focus: The Luxury Arts of 18th-century France Overview,” Hillwood Museum and Gardens. This webpage for Hillwood Museum offers a well-written, brief essay on 18th century decorative arts and their cultural context, including the prevailing view that consumption by the nobility was a civic good, and a link to a wonderful video clip about an exhibit on table service. (Hillwood Museum and Gardens 2010)
- Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, “The Spirit of Laws, Book 7:Consequences of the Different Principles of the Three Governments with Respect to Sumptuary Laws, Luxury, and the Condition of Women, section 4,”. Montesquieu was a noted philosophe and social critic, although in this case, his epigrammatic statement seemed to support the current hierarchical system. (Montesquieu 2010)
- Christine Adams,”A choice not to wed? Unmarried women in eighteenth-century France,” Journal of Social History 29, (1996): 883-894. Highlighting an apparently unusual example of the alternative path, Adams reviews the well documented circumstances of a specific pair of sisters in a French urban professional family who chose to remain single and manage their parents’, and later, their brother’s household for the good of their family’s finances and for their own independence (Adams 1996)
- Marie Antoinette.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.Reproduced on the Web in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale. This article asserts that any her influence and involvement in politics or public policy have been over-stated (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. 1998)
- (Adams 1996)
- This walk-by reminds the viewer of the paparazzi clinging around a celebrity, or the press corps waiting for a word from a government leader.
- It is shocking to take note of the king’s cause of death (smallpox), the speed of its action (the length of a brief trip to Paris), and the complete lack of protection of the rest of the court personnel from infection in this pre-germ theory era (they all stand or kneel around his bed barefaced).
- “Coronation of the British monarch,” Search.com. This highlights another example of how royal clothes signal identity. The British coronation ceremony includes an anointing in which the monarch changes into an absolutely unornamented linen shift, after which the elaborate robes which signal the new role as king or queen are put on. (Coronation of the British monarch 2010).
- Lauren Lowell, “Georgian/Roccoco Overview: Undergarments, 18th Century,”. This Illinois State University webpage, clearly explains this and other 18th century foundation garments with text and pictures. The stiffened construction of corsets with stays and laces, and the hooped panniers are particularly striking (Lowell 2008).
- “Coudes, panniers á,” Marquise de. Wearing a costume of this era seems less uncomfortable than it would appear, because either the panniers or frame of hoops holds the heavy petticoats and skirts up, and allow for air movement around the legs. The pannier a coudes, or basket for the elbows, in use in the time of Marie Antoinette, is described as follows: “A kind of pannier of (oval) dome shape, high enough at the sides that the wearer could rest her elbows on it (Maybe not literally, but at least figuratively)…introduced around 1730, had its high time in the 1740s and stuck around for highly formal wear until the 1770s. Some sources describe the pannier à coudes as having pads on top of the sides to raise them even higher than the hoops alone would.” (Coudes, Panniers a 2010)
- “Fashion in the Late 1700s: Fashion and Clothing Reflecting Political and Social Change,”. This article specifies, “At the end of the 18th century…in the reforming political climate of Europe, … fashion trends…would mirror the greater ideological changes of the century. In France, the disappearance of the court at Versailles suppressed extravagant fashion,…replaced by the Republic’s simplification in style: mens fashions looked to the proletarian class somewhat and women’s fashions sought the appeal of a Classical, Antiquity-inspired, aesthetic.” (Fashion in the Late 1700s: Fashion and Clothing Reflecting Political and Cultural Change 2008)
- (Coudes, Panniers a 2010)
- Ivan Gaskell, Costume, “Period Rooms, and Donors: Dangerous Liaisons in the Art Museum,” The Antioch Review 64, No. 4 (2004): 615. Gaskell’s review of the 2004 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit contains wonderful descriptions of clothing and furnishings such as, “…the Voluptuary, whose robe à la francaise of hand-painted green-and-white woven striped silk taffeta was already open to reveal her cream silk stays as she reclined upon a carved, painted, and gilded sultane by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené in a room from the Hôtel de Crillon, Paris…” (Gaskell 2004, 617)
- Tara Maginnis, ‘18th Century Women’s Hair and Wigs,” The Costumer’s Manifesto, 1996-2008. Ms. Maginnis says, “Hairstyles continued to rise steadily until 1778 when high fashion was achieved by as much as three feet of hair above the head surmounted by an elaborate headdress, of fabric, feathers, flowers and pearls. Naval and land battles were commemorated on these huge creations which offered such scope to the millinery artists of the time.” (Maginnis 1996-2008)
- Ivan Day, “An !8th Century Princely Table,” HIllwood Museum. The staff of this institution took weeks to create a dessert table, not even a whole meal, with a faithful recreation of a garden scene created from sugar and gum Arabic (Day 2010).
- “Eighteenth Century Medicine,” Humboldt University. This article confirms that although there was much Enlightenment experimentation, almost always on human subjects who had nothing like today’s informed consent, there was not much beyond bloodletting and prayer to treat or prevent diseases like smallpox. (Eighteenth Century Medicine 2010)
- “Childbirth in the 18th Century,” Humboldt University. This article documents the lengths to which couples would go to conceive. They were as extreme, and as pitiful as they are today, although with less science underpinning them. A quack named Graham used ambient electricity to encourage fertility, along with music, and mottoes (Childbirth in the 18th Century 2010).
- (Eighteenth Century Medicine 2010) Lazzaro Spallanzani discovered the need for semen for fertilization in 1779.
- Valerie Lastinger, “Re-defining motherhood: breast-feeding and the French enlightenment,” Women’s Studies 25, No. 6 (1996): 603-618. This issue is discussed in fascinating detail in this much cited article by Lastinger (Lastinger 1996, passim)
- The problem that Marie Antoinette must have encountered, of a period of intense discomfort while the milk “dried up”, is not addressed by the movie at all.
- John Allen, “Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France,” The Historian 68, No. 3 (2001):683, and passim. Allen makes this clear throughout his concise review of John McManners’ 2 volume work on religious life in this era. (Allen 2001, 682-684)
- “The Sun King at Worship,” Early Music 33, No. 1, (Fall, 2005): 119. In his book review, Sawkins cites the French language work of Alexandre Maral on the variety musical compositions that enriched, and apparently, made bearable, the religious life of the 17th century court (Sawkins 2005, 119-121)
- Ibid., 119 In the time of Louis XVI, according to Sawkins’ review of Maral’s book on the music of the 18th century court, the king and queen would have actually sat in an elevated area (reflecting their closeness to the divine) facing the choir and accompanists, who were also apparently on an elevated area behind the altar, with little chance of hearing the celebrant’s liturgy at all down in the groundling section where the rest of the household sat. Since the reign of Louis XIV, the royal chapel had been the scene of a daily low mass, but with at least three separate and usually original, specially commissioned pieces of music for soloist, chorus and orchestra to accompany the service, the last of which was likely to be a rendition of the Psalm verse “God save the King”. (Sawkins 2005, 119)
- (Allen 2001, 683)
- Jeffrey D. Burson, “The Crystallization of Counter-Enlightenment and Philosophe Identities: Theological Controversy and Catholic Enlightenment in Pre-Revolutionary France,” Church History 77, No. 4 (December, 2008):955-1002. Burson argues “that the fundamentally secular, self-conscious Enlightenment identity was calcified (if not precisely created) by its opposition within the Catholic Church in France,…”. (Burson 2008, 956)
- Don Fader, “Book Review (of The Bals publics at the Paris Opera in the Eighteenth Century, by Richard Semmens, Pendragon Press, Hillsdale, NY, 2004),” Notes 68, No. 2. The book seems rather specialized but the review gives a good deal of information on public and private dances in the 18th century, including a description of the minuet (Fader 2005, 381).
- (Fader 2005, 382)
- (Fader 2005, 381)
- D.J.Juvenal “Satires 10.77–81 (circa 100 C.E.)” The Latin Library. Juvenal’s epigram referred to the lowest classes, whereas the Bals Publics were for the nobility or near-nobility (Juvenal 2010).
- (Fader 2005, 382) Contredanse, which is the dance form that the actors were attempting to portray, became the new norm, allowing more guests to participate, and requiring less in the way of choreography to do well.
- (Fader 2005, 381)
- “Jean Jacques Rousseau,” The International Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The brief biographical sketch confirms that Rousseau was an influential philosophe with strong opinions on education, work, and the way life should be lived. (Jean Jacques Rousseau 2010)
- Steven Kreis, “Écrasez l’infâme!: The Triumph of Science and the Heavenly City of the 18th Century Philosophe,“. Kreis debunks the pop-philosophy over-simplification attributed to Rousseau (Kreis 2000)
- William Chambers, “Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils” in A Documentary History of Art: Michelangelo, the Mannerists, the Baroque, and the Eighteenth Century, edited by Elizabeth Gilmore Holt (Garden City, NJ, Doubleday and Company, 1958), 302. Chambers was an 18th century essayist and garden designer, responsible for portions of Kew Gardens. Despite his ethnocentricism, he nonetheless accurately identifies and documents the way that Chinese courtly gardens reproduced the unexpected and dramatic in nature (Chambers 1958, 302).