Sunday, April 5, 2009

Court Costume Exhibition at Versailles

Wedding dress of Edwige Elisabeth Charlotte de Holstein-Gottorp (wife of Prince Karl of Sweden and sister-in-law of King Gustave III of Sweden), 1774

Court costume was designed to evoke the illusion of grandeur, wealth and power. In the 17th and 18th centuries, luxurious, expensive and ostentatious clothing was reserved for those at the top of the social hierarchy. Monarchs dressed for effect in textiles with gold and silver threads, laces, embroidery, and jewels to create a luxurious and lavish symbol of prosperity and power.

This week a magnificent exhibition opened at Chateau de Versailles called Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies, Court Dress in Europe 1650-1800. This show, sponsored by Chanel, traces the history of court costume in Europe from 1650-1800 and includes 200 works (costumes, jewelery, and paintings) on loan from private collectors as well as museums like the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Pitti Palace, the Louvre, and the Royal Ontario Museum.

The exhibition encompasses seven rooms:
1. French royal costume
2. The coronation and the royal orders
3. Weddings and State ceremonies
4. The grand habit
5. Religious pomp
6. The king's day
7. Fashion and court costume

If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you will recall my many posts regarding the Marie Antoinette dress which was displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum in the fall of 2008. This dress was loaned to the Versailles exhibition and is on display in Room 7: Fashion and Court Dress. In the Versailles exhibition guide, this dress is attributed to Rose Bertin, marchandes des mode to Marie Antoinette but there is no assertion that the dress was worn by Marie Antoinette. The guide notes that the "front of the dress was modified" , "the skirt narrowed" and can "therefore no longer be presented as it was worn at the time".

It is indeed a rare treat to see garments from the 17th and 18th century on display. I can hardly wait to see this exhibition in May. Since I've already seen the dress attributed to Rose Bertin belonging to the ROM, I will be looking for:
1. The grand habit worn for the coronation of Sophie Madeleine on May 29, 1772
2. Doll's grand costume of whalebone stays, skirt, skit tail (1769-1775)
3. The wedding dress of Edwige Elizabeth Charlotte de Holstein-Gottorp (1774) in photo above

Court Pomp and Royal Ceremonies
Court Dress in Europe 1650-1800
March 31 to June 28, 2009
Chateau de Versailles