analyze the

Marie Antoinette Portrait


Vigée le Brun was a French artist mostly known for painting portraits. She was a member of the Académie de Saint-Luc and became known as the portraitist for Queen Marie Antoinette.

historical overview

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.

french court painter

Vigée le Brun was already known by the French Royal Court when she was commissioned to paint Marie Antoinette’s family portrait. 

exhibiting the queen

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.

subject matter

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.

subject matter

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.


There is a distribution of light and dark in the Marie Antoinette painting. There is an unknown light source seemingly coming from the left side in the background, possibly from the Hall of Mirrors. 


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.