Textiles & Costume

French Queens and patriotic attire

When I posted this weeks rate the dress, I was aware that numerous French queens had been painted in dark blue dresses with fleur de lys patterns, and intended to do a whole post about the trend.  Then the Lady of Portland House pointed out that the dresses in some of the paintings are very similar.

Too similar.  In fact, I think they are the same dress.

Fascinatingly, it looks like Marie de Medici, the Mother in Law of Anne, may have been painted in the dress first:

Workshop of Frans Pourbus, Maria de Medici, Queen of France, 1610-1622, collection of the Rijksmuseum (additional version in the Louvre

And then Anne immediately seized on the idea, and had her own portrait done in the dress, only she got Rubens to do it, so it looked better than Maria’s version (what a way to up your mother in law!).

Peter Paul Rubens, Anna of Austria, Queen of France, mother of king Louis XIV, 1622-1625

Maria got her revenge in two ways.

First, she commissioning Rubens to do an entire series celebrating her life, struggles and triumphs, including a coronation scene with her wearing the dress, painted at the same time as Anne’s portrait.

Peter Paul Rubens, Coronation of Marie de Medici, 1622-1625

And second, she commissioned a (very flattering and improbably youthful) near replica of Anne’s portrait done for herself.

Giovanni Leonardo Henner, after Frans Pourbus the Younger, Marie de Medicis, Queen of France, 1628

Despite Marie’s final fall out with her son, and banishment from France in 1631, Anne had to wait until after Marie’s death in 1642 to the last say. She had herself painted in the dress for a final time in a pose that managed to celebrate her nationalism, her piety, her status, and her children, all in one go.

From the studio of Philippe de Champaigne, Anne of Austria with her children, praying (detail), 1646

What a tale of rivalry and one-upmanship!

Next week: more Queens of France


  1. Wow! That brings these picture to life for sure! Now does the last one look like the same dress again repurposed or is it just me? There are signs for sure of the c ontroverisal peplum there, and the cape looks suspiciously like the overdress. Of course a painter can put a subject into any garment s/he chooses, easier than photoshopping it!

  2. That is so neat! What is really cool is the fact that it really does look like the same dress but the renditions almost make it look like its made from different fabrics: In one painting the fabric looks of a lighter weight than the other. I love the dress! It’s so cool to see it on someone else in a different light so to speak.

  3. Oh my, it’s really the same dress – unless it’s like the dresses in films, when they make several versions of the same dress depending on the requirements of the scene. 🙂

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