Publication Date

Spring 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Anthony Raynsford


chemise à la reine, chemise gown, Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun, Fashion history, Marie-Antoinette

Subject Areas

Art history; Fashion; European history


The portrait of Marie-Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, known as La Reine en gaulle, has been discussed widely in art history owing to the scandal it provoked when it was exhibited in the Paris Salon in August 1783. Analysis has focused primarily on socio-economic issues of late-ancien regime France as a means of understanding how a relatively benign portrait of the Queen of France could engender so much anger when displayed for public consumption, centering around the queen’s identity as a public figure in contrast to the private individual painted by Vigée-Lebrun. However, very little has been discussed about the clothing represented in the painting and how the chemise à la reine, as the style became known, represented a challenge to the established system of conveying queenship. This portrait challenged ideals of femininity and identity and introduced a conflict between personal autonomy and public entity. I present evidence in the form of the conflicting motivations between Rousseauian principles of simplicity and nature and the artificial formality of French royal portraiture, as well as the increasing globalization of the luxury trades in the last years of the ancien regime in the wake of French Colonialism, arguing that Marie-Antoinette’s attempt to assert her individuality through her clothing and image as a means of self-representation.