There are certainly no shortage of reasons for Angelenos to head north to San Francisco, and if you’re an art and/or history buff, there’s one more to add to the list. From now until February 17th of next year, the Marie-Antoinette and the Petit Trianon at Versailles exhibit will be on display at the Legion of Honor.
As the first and only time this collection of art and personal belongings of the infamous Queen has been on display outside of France, visitors will experience first hand Marie-Antoinette’s personal taste and style and learn the truth behind some of the myths surrounding her reign. As the actual Petit Trianon is being restored and remodeled in France, the Legion of Honor in San Francisco has the distinct privilege of housing this amazing collection.
The Petit Trianon
A chateau on the grounds of Versailles, the Petit Trianon was the Queen’s sanctuary from her royal life. After her husband, King Louis XVI gave her this building as a gift in 1774, Marie-Antoinette redecorated her retreat with furnishings more to her liking than the traditional royal style of Versailles. With English style gardens, a personal theatre, floral motifs, mirrored shutters and distinctively unique designs, the Petit Trianon was filled with elegant, yet simple (in comparison to the palace) objects.
Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in cooperation with the Etablissement public du musee et du domaine national de Versailles, the exhibition highlights this period in French history by way of almost 100 pieces of the finest furniture, paintings and sculptures from the chateau.
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace
One piece of particular interest in the collection is the infamous diamond necklace that many falsely attributed to the Queen’s excessive lifestyle. Although she refused this necklace as a gift on more than one occasion, "The Affair of the Diamond Necklace" became one of the biggest scandals marring her tenure as Queen. On display at the Legion of Honor, visitors can marvel at the 540 diamond jeweled necklace up close and in person.
Marie-Antoinette "a la rose"
Another scandal involving Marie-Antoinette is also represented through one of the most recognizable paintings of the famed queen. The original piece was painted by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun in 1783 depicting the Queen in a chemise and straw hat. Creating quite the fervor due to her casual attire usually reserved for the privacy of the palace, the painting was redone showing the Queen in the same pose, but in a more appropriate blue-gray dress. This change, reflecting the French fashion of the times was more to everyone’s liking.
Exquisite pieces such as these and the interesting stories that go with them fill the exhibit, including furniture from the King’s Bedroom, which he never slept in, the gorgeous bronze cupid lantern from the salon de compagnie and many other pieces of artwork and furniture from the Queen’s sitting rooms.
Located at 34th Avenue and Clement Street in San Francisco, the Legion of Honor is open Tuesday – Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., with free admission on the first Tuesday of every month. The museum also features an exhibition store where patrons can stop in and purchase Marie-Antoinette and Versailles inspired gifts exclusive to the museum such as china, reproductions of the Queen’s jewelry and re-creations of her perfume.
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Written by Staff Writer