MARIE ANTOINETTE – LOUIS XVI STYLE
This months style inspiration focuses on one of the most famous figures in history, Marie Antoinette, the controversial last Queen of France whose taste during the reign of her husband Louis XVI eclipsed all others and continues to influence French style to the present day.
Daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria (1717-1780) and of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor (1708-1765), Marie-Antoinette was born an Archduchess of Austria in 1755. As an attempt to strengthen the alliance that France had struck with Austria in 1756 and end years of political hostility between France and Austria, she was married in May 1770 at the age of 14 to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. In May 1774 her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI, and she became Queen of France.
Her excess and infamous ‘let them eat cake’ attitude, which ultimately led to her demise, revealed itself both politically, in her attempt to influence government and court patronage, and socially with her notorious gambling and partying. Her expensive taste in fashion and jewellery helped alienate her from the people, and at a time of major financial and political crisis at the end of the 1780’s, her declining reputation did much to discredit the ‘Ancien Régime’.
Her passion for luxury and the decorative arts however helped shape aristocratic taste and had a lasting legacy – in fact the Louis XVI Style might more accurately be called the ‘Style Marie Antoinette’.
Louis XVI interiors and the Marie Antoinette style often relied on a specific theme or colour scheme, applied to every element of a room. The style was characterised by a sense of elegance, with pastoral motifs and an emphasis on neoclassicism, with a return to ancient Greek and Roman models and motifs. Much of the iconic furniture and decorative objects were designed and made for Marie Antoinette for the new apartments she created in the Palace of Versailles, Palace of Fontainebleau, and the Tuileries Palace.
The Queens State Apartments at Versailles
Marie Antoinette’s State Apartments at Versailles were originally bult for the Sun King Louis XVI’s wife Queen Maria Theresa (1660-1683), and subsequently occupied by King Louis XV’s Queen Consort Marie Leszczyńska (1703-1768). The décor, however, has largely been preserved according to Marie Antoinette’s lavish and opulent taste. The four key chambers include: The Queen’s Bedchamber; The Nobles’ Room; The Royal Table Antechamber and The Queen’s Guard Room.
The Queens Private Apartments at Versailles
The Queens Private Chambers were a series of small rooms beyond her State Apartments which were reserved for her personal use and for service by her ladies-in-waiting.