From Fashion Queen to Dairy Queen, this is a trajectory outlined for us at the Estate of Marie-Antoinette. I suppress a yawn. This is definitely a Japanese thing. The Russian tourists come to Versailles to take oath at the Tennis Court. What could I possibly say about all this?
Nothing? The summer 2008 displayed for our judgement the Queen’s fabulous fashions: dresses, shoes, hats, jewelry, make-up, perfumes. In 2005 they had a similar event here in Versailles. Perhaps it was a little simpler, more natural. I remember the queen’s hair, about a meter high, representing a landscape: it was complete with a green lawn and sprinkled with flowers, a small creek ran by a windmill. The arms of the windmill were the arms of a small clock concealed inside, it struck every hour on the hour surprising the queen’s interlocutor and bringing about a ripple of mirth in the room.
But it is 2010. They have been restoring the Queen’s fake village for years. Here Her Majesty made His Majesty play the role of a village chief and Cardinal Rohan that of a parish priest. An all day performance in open air! She would play for days. She was very playful.
Today at the museum’s boutique you can buy yourself Marie-Anoinette’s perfume.Would you like a sampler? Come on! Smell it! How is it? No comment? Nothing at all? This is another theater of Marie-Antoinette, another costume party. Anyone wants to play? But let us look around. What we see is a boat station with a small lighthouse, not to get lost in a storm. It gives us an opportunity to put on that sailing outfit that Rose Bertin had invented for such an occasion, to be worn with that hairdo in a shape of a boat.
Here is the Queen’s kitchen garden, so she could play a role of a simple housewife, we don’t know if she ever held a shovel, but I can see her plant and water flowers.
There Madam Deficit could pose as a little shepherdess and dress for a pastoral scene with her sheep. Little Bo-Peep had been looking for them everywhere and she may need a little help. Would you like to dress as shepherd and help her?
In the context of the country’s financial strife all this may not look so innocent. The entire landscape had been re-shaped: in the South-West they had built hills with a grotto, then added an artificial lake and a creek. And a windmill? Of course, there was a windmill! How do you think we’ve got all that flour to powder ourselves? During the reign of Marie-Antoinette, while the country suffered from famine, at Versailles we had more flour than ever, yellow, pink, blue, purple, clouds of flower to walk through.
So in the North-East we had re-created some poverty at a great cost: a barn and a chicken coop. Look the queen is milking a cow! The king does too…. He will use the acquired skill in a couple of years. This may actually save his life, for he will be pretty close to loosing it at the Central Market in Paris. He will even have to drink straight out of the bottle some low-grade red wine to prove to his subjects that he is just like them. Actually they report that he was very convincing as a village chief. Someone even saw him take a dump in the field.
Nothing? But why? You don’t like the Romantic kitsch? You don’t appreciate the bucolic infantilism on the eve of the Industrial Revolution?
You don’t think a landscape painter should be employed as the nature’s architect? You are depressing! You don’t enjoy life. It’s all about having good time! Is everyone having a good time?
Where are my Japanese tourists? They like it here. They are enjoying the view. They’ll buy some Marie-Antoinette’s perfume. They are reading the latest book on the last Queen of France. The French think it is in a very bad taste. But these opinions are so French…. The Russians don’t get it. They are buying it, but they are not getting it. They are off to see the stables or the General Estates meeting place…. I am lost. Somebody let me know where the Chinese stand on all of this…