Consorts of Power: Contextualizing the State Portrait Costumes Worn by the Wives of the French Monarchs from 1774 to 1870
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoThesis not available (per author's request)
AbstractThe perceptions, legacies, and dynastic capabilities of the last six queens and empresses of France were formulated through the official state portraits commissioned during the reigns of the monarchs of France from the period of 1774 to 1870. The constant shifts of power taking place within the country, both immediately before and throughout the revolutionary periods of the turbulent nineteenth century, can be studied through many different frameworks. One particular focus, however, is that of the court costumes worn by the six different Bourbon and Bonaparte queens and empresses of France in their state portraits as they sought to embody varying messages of continuity, solidarity, majesty, and dynasticism promoted by their husbands as each man struggled to maintain control of the elusive Crown. By centering the discussion around the important entity of costume, it is possible to gauge the situational and atmospheric contexts in which these women posed for their portraits, specifically by studying their clothing, styling, and set-dressing and the significant meanings imbued in their sartorial decisions. The conscious choices made for portraits, and especially for royal sitters, were crucial elements of the canon for these female members of the various French royal and imperial families of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and each consort worked with and against the standards for the genre of royal portraiture to accomplish the aims of her husband’s reign as it played off of her own individual choices and perspectives. Therefore, these six state portraits promote both the impact of particular costuming choices, and the concept of how those visual choices can affect (and even contribute to) the downfall of monarchies. Beyond serving as beautiful works of art that ostensibly represented divinely-ordained and highly-elevated figures at their most glorious, these portraits are representations of the fraught political and dynastic tightropes upon which these women had to balance— with varying levels of success.
Degree ProgramGraduate College