Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France

A daughter of Emperor Francis I and Maria-Theresa of Austria, Marie-Antoinette (1755-1733) left the court of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe at 14 years old to be married to the Dauphin of France. When she was 18, in 1774, Louis XV died and the dauphine was proclaimed Queen of France, alongside her husband Louis XVI. Her reign was of a particular importance, especially for Art History.

Marie-Antoinette participated in the entertainment at the Court. She organized many plays and balls that were renowned for their extravagance and their exquisite splendor. A great admirer of the arts, she placed many artists under her protection, like cabinetmaker Riesener or painter Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. The Queen led the fashion trends at Court. She supervised the creation of various pieces of furniture and hangings; the Hameau (the Hamlet) was built in the Palace of Versailles park to fulfill her yearning for a more intimate lifestyle. She had such an important influence on eighteenth-century French art that it would undoubtedly be more accurate to speak about "Marie-Antoinette style" rather than "Louis XVI style".

However, the young Queen was very unpopular, especially because she refused to follow the heavy rules of Versailles society and her duties as Queen. Even though the people exaggerated the amounts of her spending, the accusations held against her about squandering public money precipitated her downfall.

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