Norms do… Marie Antoinette
There have been many famous female figures in history: Mother Theresa, Queen Elizabeth II, Florence Nightingale, Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra – but of all history’s matriarchal icons, my favourite of all time has to be Marie Antoinette. Born Archduchess of Austria and later Queen to France’s doomed Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette’s iconic fame arises, not because of any kind of historical achievement on her part, but because of her reputation for lavish excess, sky-high hair, massive abundant dresses, and a complete self-indulgent profligacy which saw her building herself miniature villages, vast gardens, living in extravagant palaces and dressing in only the finest fabrics – and all this at a time when France was crumbling on the brink of revolution.
Famous for supposedly uttering “Let them eat cake” when told that the poor of France had no bread (although there is no documentary evidence that she ever did so), Marie Antoinette’s renowned excess could not go on forever in the instability of French society at the time, and eventually it became her ultimate downfall, all the way to the guilotine. No doubt this ignominious end is crucial to why Marie Antoinette has become such a legendary figure, together with her towering powdered wigs, vast horizontal dresses and of course a token beauty spot.
Well, as I was preparing for the show stopping highlight of the Norm collection of my recent London solo exhibition, I thought about how I could create a climax to my collection which would ultimately hang at the very end of my show. And being as I already had a super-elaborate Versaille-style gilt frame begging for a new canvas, it seemed that only one Norm would fit the bill: Marie Antoinette Norm.
While the eagel-eyed amongst you may have already spotted her residing in my show in the photos I have shared, here Marie Antoinette Norm, the result of several weeks labour in acrylic on canvas, is presented for the first time. Surrounded by all of the paraphernalia of her power and royal station, together with her iconic high wig, beauty spot and over-sized silk-ruffled skirt, my Marie Antoinette Norm is the very embodiment of the character who has been famed throughout history. She is even holding a piece of cake by way of illustration of her most famous (if historically doubtful) utterance.
The painting, with all of the fabrics and grand interiors typical of the time, was not the easiest to paint, and I found that to make the painting look older, I had to really knock back a lot of the brightness of shop bought colours. Still at its finish I am wholeheartedly delighted with this most glamourous of Norms – the fitting end to a collection of art historical figures all translated into Norm world.
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