Anyone who follows me here knows that an addiction to large, gorgeous coffee table books is alive and well, and I have a new favorite…View More Presidential Residences in France
The monarchs throughout history have been some of the most fascinating people to have ever walked the earth. I feature them often in my diary entries.
Billowing ruched fabric, pointy toes of dainty shoes visible from beneath flounced skirts hemmed in gold fringes and ornate trims. A bejeweled crown on a pillow festooned with gold fleurs-de-lis; and a red velvet tablecloth flowing downward, its gold trim cascading onto a floral rug. Sumptuousness at every turn. Painting in its most magnificent forms. I am walking through the exhibition Vigée Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Porcelain skin and the richest colors infused with powdery light mesmerize. The Comtesse du Barry’s expression is jaded, the grey of her eyes matching the feathers arching above her straw hat and the lace ruffles fluttering around her collar bone. She is already the deposed mistress of Louis XV when this is painted, and Vigée Le Brun has rendered her in the style she became enamored with when she traveled to Antwerp with her husband.
Though the subjects she would paint would be many, she would gain the most fame from her portraits of Marie Antoinette, who first invited Vigée Le Brun to Versailles to paint a full-length portrait of her in court dress that would be given to the queen’s mother, Maria Theresa of Austria. Upon receiving the painting, the empress was pleased to see the regal bearing of her daughter that Vigée Le Brun had captured. As Vigée Le Brun’s memoirs prove, no matter how many famous women and men she would immortalize abroad, she never lost her fondness for Marie Antoinette and never felt quite as much joy as she had experienced painting the queen. I can understand why a fascination with the lives of the monarchs would catch hold of anyone who had anything to do with them, a subject I explore often here on the blog.
The Hotel de la Marine Restored
In his foreword to The French Royal Wardrobe: The Hotel de la Marine Restored, Philippe Bélaval, the President of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, illustrates how painstaking…View More The Hotel de la Marine Restored
An Invitation to Vaux-le-Vicomte
In 1641, the 26-year old parliamentarian Nicolas Fouquet, who was then the Master of Requests at the Parlement of Paris, acquired the viscounty of Vaux…View More An Invitation to Vaux-le-Vicomte
The Architecture of Chivalry
This essay about the built legacy of Henry VIII is included in my new book The Modern Salonnière. The 34 other essays in the book…View More The Architecture of Chivalry
The Camera Becomes King on Safari
This essay about a legendary safari tracker is included in my new book The Modern Salonnière, which is available on Amazon. The 34 other essays…View More The Camera Becomes King on Safari
The Nature of Noble Loyalty
It’s spring in London and the flowers are bursting forth on Cheyne Walk, which skirts the edge of the River Thames until it gives way…View More The Nature of Noble Loyalty
The Tapestry of History
In just a few hours, the modern ideal of a fairy tale wedding will take place at Windsor Castle. A trip I took to the…View More The Tapestry of History
Madame Récamier and the Art of Reclining
Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard, known after her marriage as Juliette Récamier, was born on December 4, 1777—240 years ago yesterday. Had she lived during modern…View More Madame Récamier and the Art of Reclining
My Porcelain Bucket List
When I am planning literary design adventures, I look for experiences that give me the feeling of transcendence—encounters during which I am conscious of having…View More My Porcelain Bucket List
Henry VIII’s Cult of Cloth
A trip to Frankfurt to attend Heimtextil a week from today has inspired me to share one of my favorite anecdotes about Henry VIII and…View More Henry VIII’s Cult of Cloth