August 17, 2012

Farewell, My Queen: Movie Review

Well, finally I had the chance to go see Farewell, My Queen. The story for the script was adapted from a novel by the same name. In July it hit select theaters in the states.

Farewell, My Queen follows one of Marie Antoinette's young readers, Sidonie Laborde, who is shadowed by Madame Campan.  We do not know anything about Sidonie except that she has trouble waking up in the morning and has a thorough knowledge of literature. (She could also beat you in a staring contest!)  She lives at Versailles, where she feels safe from the outside world.

Sidonie is lucky among her friends because she gets to spend time with Marie Antoinette. The young reader to the Queen can recognize her discontent with her status, and at one point admits that the Queen tries to mentally escape when she can.  In a way Sidonie also escapes her lot by focusing on Marie Antoinette.  She builds a relationship with the Queen, which may mostly be in her own imagination, but she convinces herself of utter devotion to the Queen. She denies any relationship with the queen to her friends, as if she is keeping whatever it is between the queen and herself a big secret.

We only get a glimpse into Versailles during the course of a few short days in this film.  Each day we wake up with Sidonie and follow her throughout her daily routine.  Routine is disrupted by the beginnings of the Revolution.  I loved the costumes, scenery, architecture, hair, and make up.  The film stays inside the walls of Versailles (mainly) because Sidonie does not leave. So, while you do not get to see the events outside of Versailles, you do get to see the chaos spread and stirred throughout  the palace.  It feels like an inside peek into what people were saying, how gossip was spread within palace walls, and how people reacted.

A major plot line of this film is the scandalous nature of Marie Antoinette's relationship with the duchesse de Polignac. Everything was kept very ambiguous.  Marie Antoinette's friendship with Little Po remained just curious enough that even blogger boyfriend had to ask if the queen really had a girlfriend. You see behavior at court and it is left open for interpretation and opinions.  I will add that I nearly laughed out loud when the duchesse de Polignac made an appearance in her yellow sedan chair. It was a hilarious sight!

Both members of upstairs and downstairs whispered secrets and gossiped amongst each other.  The court gossiped constantly about the Duchess de Polignac, but we (the viewers) only know her through brief glimpses (remember we are following Sidonie) and from gossip whispered around Sidonie.  We do get to see Marie Antoinette more intimately - there is a lot of peering through windows and staring through doorways. It is a hobby for the servants to gaze in at the royals- which works out  great for us because we get to see and learn so much, but it also makes you think of how privacy really was  unheard of back then.  

I will not spoil anything regarding the ending but really enjoyed it and I think you will too! Let me know if you have seen it or if you get to check it out. Also, let me know if you gasped like I did when the Queen brought up having Leonard assist with a certain something!

August 04, 2012

The resting place of kings: Saint Denis

 Basilica of St Denis

 "the wonderful and uninterrupted light of most sacred windows" - Abbot Suger

I have a keen interest in tomb sculpture and was very excited to visit Saint Denis. The French cathedral was the site of royal French tombs for centuries. It once sat outside of Paris but is now within city lines. The interior is open and spacious, and amazing light is filtered through windows.

Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside, so I can't show you too much. But some things were too good to pass by!  So I pulled out my 'art historian license' and went to work. Below are later  sculptures of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and below is the tomb of Henri II and Catherine Medici.

My personal favorite is the tomb of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne! An epitaph written for Anne runs alongside these elements as well:
“Earth, World and Heaven have divided Madame Anne, who was wife to kings Charles and Louis; Earth took the corpse that lies under this stone, World retains the fame and renown Forever enduring, and with unblemished soul So Heaven, for its part, has taken the soul.”

Tomb of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne.

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Tomb of Henry II and Catherine de Medici

August 03, 2012

The Robe à la française [Poll]

It's the Fashion!
Today I want to remind you of the enduring fashion that was the Robe à la française, which provided (along with the support of big hoop skirts) the ideal feminine shape/form of the 18th century.

Check out these four beautiful 18th century gowns. Then answer the Poll at the bottom of this post. Which Robe à la française would be in your closet?

Pink and cream Gown
  (Robe à la française), French. 1765-1770, Beige taffeta, pink satin, and cream satin stripes brocaded with a pink, green, and white floral motif, compound weave; pink, green, and beige fly fringe; cream bobbin lace edging. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Blue and Cream Gown 
 (Robe à la française), French. 1760-1770, Silk front Cream taffeta patterned with light blue, navy blue and gray serpentine floral stripe motif, lampas weave; yellow plain weave; blue and cream looped braid trim; cream twill. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Floral Gown 
(Robe à la française), French. c. 1755-60, Chinese export silk-brocaded satin, silk and silk chenille looped fringe.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

Cream Brocade Dress 
 (Robe à la Française), French. 1770, Cream silk with floral motif, lace edging and  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Which robe à la française would be in your closet?