There is something positive about the transports strike in Paris, everyone is out walking and the streets are it is incredibly lively and fun to watch. I recently went to see the Marie Antoinette exhibition at the Conciergerie “Metamorphoses of an image” (until January 26), and walked on to have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants Le Hangar, across the Seine on rue Beaubourg. You get a chance to watch the works on Notre Dame on the way and taste their delicious pumpkin ravioles and fresh sardines.
When she died on October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette had already been the subject of very many portraits and caricatures but she has since been largely represented in every country, by contemporary artists as well as caricaturists, as a star or as a witch, with dolls, objects, films and photographs and hundreds of books of which Antonia Fraser‘s biography, is one of the most successful: it was the inspiration for Sofia Coppola‘s film in 2006.
Her last home was the Conciergerie on the Ile de la Cité and this is where the interesting show on her trial and last days, is set with a very hip decor. I was surprised to be so moved by the leather and green silk slipper she was wearing to the guillotine (it slipped off and someone picked it up on the street), the lock and key to her jail, and Alexandre Kucharsky‘s numerous portraits of hers. This Polish artists became her official portraitist after Elisabeth Vigée Lebrun fled for Italy and the Queen left Versailles. These images were widely sold as prints or replicas among the émigrés.
The chiefs of accusations are projected on the walls of the building, which is very dramatic and you can read the original papers written by the revolutionary judges and visualise the Queen in her cell where she was allowed to have visitors.
The scenography by Véronique Dollfus is extremely lively thanks to a series of costumes and objects, large posters of the portraits and glass windows with Sèvres porcelain and personal artifacts. There are contemporary paintings inspired by the Queen, like those by Pierre et Gilles or Fernando Botero as well as Galliano dresses. Her incredible fate was a general source of inspiration and this inventive show is a good sum up.
The Marie Antoinette show closes on the 26 th of January at La Conciergerie. Le Hangar, is closed on Mondays. Lunch and dinner at le Hangar will hopefully go on forever, 12 impasse Berthaud, tel: 01 42 74 55 44.
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