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The Painting of Marie Antoinette With Her Children

In 1815, Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Portrait Le Brun painted Marie Antoinette with Her Children, which will be the subject of this dissertation. The painting will be examined in depth later in this paper. She had a special affection for this painter because she had painted 30 portraits of the Queen, including this one, and she admired her work. They were also good friends, which contributed to the solidification of their love. You can catch a peek at her children in this photograph. It was unusual for a queen to include their children in one of her paintings. Still, Marie wanted to show her people that she could be a mother while also acting as a monarch, and she felt that by doing so, she would be able to preserve her public popularity. This study aims to examine the substance, the arguments, the subjects, and the aesthetic choices made in the image of Marie Antoinette with her children (Stauble).


In this portrait from the 18th century, Marie Antoinette is flanked by her children, dressed in their best. Clothing considered fundamental throughout the period in which Marie Antoinette wore it was considered such during that time. Her decision to prioritize the needs of her children over her ostentation is another proof of her selflessness. She transmits the impression that she is a good mother because of the feelings of her children, particularly the feelings of the daughter on her left, she says. When she looks up at her mother, the young child on her left is filled with awe and amazement. They are all dressed in crimson, except for the newborn infant on her lap, dressed in a complementary colour.

It is impossible to tell the difference between mother and daughter because they are both dressed identically, with the child on her left sporting clothing that is even more similar to the mother’s and sporting an even more similar shade of red. This could be a sign that the child is making strides forward in their developmental process. Having grown up believing that her mother is a person deserving of love and admiration for everything she has done for her family, she is the oldest child and was the first to be born. But the other two have not yet reached the same level of maturity as their counterparts. According to the artist, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun appears to have drawn inspiration for this piece of artwork from her personal experiences. Perhaps Lebrun’s paintings of loving mothers were motivated by an unconscious desire for something she lacked as a kid but had craved for when she was younger, such as her mother’s affection. During her childhood, her mother did not have a significant influence on her life at all (Smith).


The goal of this picture of Marie Antoinette, which was completed in 1788, was to represent her in a more positive light than had previously been the case. After her birth in Austria, Queen Marie-Antoinette of France was ridiculed by her people, which resulted in the French Revolution the following year. Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, a well-known painter, was elected to the French Academy of Arts in 1783, making her the first woman to hold this position. Elizabeth Vigee Lebrun’s goal throughout the 18th century was to paint pictures of the royal family for the royal family’s use. The portrait is on display at the Musee National du Chateau, located in Paris. Madame de Montaigne’s picture of Marie Antoinette portrays her as a well-to-do mother figure surrounded by affluence.

The artwork is colourful and brilliant, with Marie Antoinette in her red robes serving as the composition’s centre point, surrounded by other royal figures. She wears extravagant feather headgear, a sign of her social standing and financial resources. Marie Antoinette is seen as a young mother on the left side of this artwork, clutching her three adoring children in her lap as the sun peeks through a slatted blanket covering an empty crib on the right side of the painting. Marie Antoinette’s long-lost child, whose memory is commemorated in this monument to her recollection, has been given this dedication. Marie Antoinette is shown as a motherly figure in the painting, which the artist intended for the audience to gaze upon with admiration. As a result of their inability to relate to her extravagant display during a period during which their economy was in disarray. They were becoming increasingly impoverished while the rich continued to outnumber them, so her attempt was rejected.

The empty cradle in the photo was intended to convey the sorrowful side of queen Marie Antoinette to the viewer. Before completing the portrait, she had suffered the loss of her fourth child. The empty cradle was intended to demonstrate to onlookers that she was a human being who had to deal with life’s difficulties. She, like other women in the kingdom, had experienced the difficulties of motherhood; as a result, individuals in the community who had lost children and relatives as a result of their inability to afford healthcare, even those from the upper socioeconomic strata, were forced to deal with unavoidable difficulties (Maranzani).


Since her marriage at the age of fourteen, Marie Antoinette has been regarded as a glamorous woman. As soon as she was married, it became clear to the French citizens and those close to her that she was a connoisseur of the better things in life. This set her apart from the past queens of the land. In this perspective, her title and social class always took precedence over her identity. Her fame skyrocketed once she made her first public appearance. Her adoration of fashion and glitz inflamed resentment among her subjects, prompting a revolt that ended France’s monarchy. This image also served as the inspiration for the execution of her second son, Prince Louis, who was to be king when he was released from prison.

In the field of art, aesthetic theories are applied in the evaluation and critical examination of artistic creations. Formalism, instrumentalism, imitational, and emotionalism are discussed theories. The painting of Marie Antoinette and her children combines all of the aesthetic theories that have been developed over time. Formalist art is concerned with the visual aspects of artworks instead of expressionist art. Triangular shapes are used in the composition of the painting to create an illusion of depth. Initially, this was done to portray our family as the holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, a family full of humility and had the little privilege. Its purpose was to bolster the impression that the sitter wished to make on members of the general public.

Instrumentalism is the use of artwork to convey messages to the viewer. The death of Marie Antoinette’s fourth child is commemorated by the cradle on the far right of the painting. That it be included in the portrait was not required by the artist. The intended message by both the sitter and the artist, on the other hand, was to establish a connection with the wider French public on the difficulties and losses associated with motherhood and parenthood in general. The pillow at the sitter’s feet symbolized her desire for glitz and comfort at the same time. Her cap, with its feathers, represented the throne and her high social standing. Queen Marie felt that by holding her children in her lap, she would convey her vulnerability and her love and commitment to her family.

Emotional aesthetics is founded on the feelings of love and compassion that queen Marie intended to inspire in the general populace via her work. The cradle depicted in the image elicits strong emotional responses from viewers. The sight of an empty crib may elicit sympathy in those who see it. It has the effect of neutralizing feelings of hatred and disdain among French citizens. When it comes to aesthetics, imitationalism is defined as the practice of making a piece of art look as authentic as possible. The artwork represents the Queen and her children in how they are typically depicted in paintings, providing persons unfamiliar with her with a glimpse into her personality. The atmosphere, which includes the walls and furniture of the space, evokes images of the monarchy through luxurious furnishings and décor (View, and Writer).

Works Cited

Stauble, Katherine. “Marie Antoinette And Her Children: An Icon Of French Painting”. Gallery.Ca, 2016,

Maranzani, Barbara. “What Happened To Marie Antoinette’S Children?”. Biography, 2019,,when%20Sophie%2C%20who%20had%20been%20born%20prematurely%2C%20died.

Smith, Roberta. “She Painted Marie Antoinette (And Escaped The Guillotine) (Published 2016)”. Nytimes.Com, 2016,

View, World, and Staff Writer. “What Are Some Examples Of Aesthetic Theories Of Art?”. Reference.Com, 2020,


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