This is the second most famous picture of the Queen after Marie-Antoinette With the Rose. In spite of its apparent intimacy, or rather because of it, the picture is very political. The 1780’s are very political years in the life of the royal family. The image of the Queen as the mother is supposed to improve the public image of Marie-Antoinette; and by the way of strengthening the weakest link of the monarchy, the painting takes part in the public relations campaign for the monarchy itself. It is painted not as a private but an official command of the royal administration.
On the right of the Queen is her daughter, nick-named Madame Royale, Marie-Therese. To the left of the Queen is her son, who later dies of tuberculosis, Louis-Joseph. The boy holds open the drapes covering the crib, not to help her mother to put his younger brother to bed, but to reveal the emotional world of Marie-Antoinette who grieves the loss of her youngest, Sophie, a one year-old, dead only a month before the completion of the painting. On her lap Marie-Antoinette holds the future Louis XVIII.
There is a possibility of interpretation from the margin. The asymmetrical movement of a pointer could start by identifying a detail such as another famous piece of furniture from Chateau Versailles, a massive jewelry container which has long disappeared without a trace and which serves as the background for the crib and Louis-Joseph. The rhetorical program of the composition suggests that Marie-Antoinette does not squander but rather invests the money into her children who are the greatest repository of wealth.