From the bouffant coiffure to her violent demise at the guillotine, the broad strokes defining France’s 18th century icon are universally known — and yet “Marie Antoinette was a queen we know very little about,” says Antoine de Bacque, curator of a new exhibition “Marie Antoinette: Metamorphosis of an Image.”
Housed on the banks of the Seine in the same Parisian prison where the Archduchess of Austria spent the final weeks of her life, the exhibition examines both Marie Antoinette’s life and her enduring presence in the worlds of fashion, design, and film. This is achieved through presenting more than 200 objects ranging from her official portrait by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, to costumes worn in Sophia Coppola’s 2006 film, to the shoe lost en route to the guillotine (the anti-Cinderella, if you will).
The domestic appeal of delving headlong into the legacy of Marie Antoinette is somewhat self-evident, yet The Centre des monuments nationaux (CMN), the organization partly responsible for the exhibition, is also striving to pique the interests of Chinese tourists to the French Capital.
More than a million Chinese visited Paris in 2018 and CMN is hoping many of these will incorporate a visit to Conciergerie alongside ubiquitous snaps of the Mona Lisa and trips atop the Eiffel Tower. Beyond creating a playful animated video for the monumental exhibition, it has posted on both its Weibo and WeChat accounts.
The posts give readers an outline of Marie Antoinette’s place in French history through words, images, and videos. They also provide practical exhibition information.
The WeChat post reads, “from a royal palace to a royal prison, this building has witnessed many joys and sorrow.”
Given the exhibition is set to run to the end of January 2020, many Chinese will likely experience such a diversity of emotions first-hand when they travel to France over the Chinese New Year.