In 1770, Marie Antoinette married the French Louis-Auguste XVI, the heir to the throne after Louis XV. King Louis XVI commissioned Élisabeth Vigée le Brun to paint Marie Antoinette with all her children.
When it came to the exhibition of the painting at the Paris Salon in 1787, le Brun did not want to put it on display out of fear of its reception. However, the painting was exhibited and received both positive and negative critiques.
Marie Antoinette and her children are depicted according to the religious and historical style of paintings that utilized a triangular layout, notably for depictions of the “Holy Family” during the Renaissance period.
Marie Antoinette is the central figure. Sitting on her lap is her youngest son Louis XVII, and holding on to her right arm is her daughter, Marie-Thérèse. The elder son Louis-Joseph stands slightly removed from the rest.
Behind Marie Antoinette is a large opening that leads into another room or what appears to be a hallway. This is reportedly the famous Hall of Mirrors, which has been referred to as a tribute to King Louis XIV.
Vigée le Brun utilized a soft application of colors in the Marie Antoinette painting with rich warm colors like red from the queen’s as well as Marie-Thérèse’s red gowns, orange from Louis-Joseph’s outfit, and some pinks, visible in the rug.
While Marie Antoinette’s reputation preceded her and led her to her demise, she was nonetheless the subject of numerous French paintings, bedecked in decadence and splendor and le Brun’s artistic style contributed to this.