1756 1763


The Surviving Sisters of Marie Antoinette in no parituclar order

Daughters of Marie Theresa of Austria & Francis I Holy Roman Emperor: 11 daughters in all - eight surviving - 16 children total

A N N A : second daughter, but eldest surviving. reportedly the least respected and loved by Maria Theresa. she was highly intelligent but physically disabled and suffered from bad health.  In 1757 she contracted pneumonia and almost died. she survived, but her breathing capacity was permanently damaged, and she developed a fusion of her spine which caused her to have a lump on her back. since that time, she formed a close relationship with her father, and apparently became Francis I’s favourite child. she shared his interest in science and conducted experiments in chemistry and physics, something higher nobility ostracized her for. she was also a talented artist, and was heavily praised by the art world. she was made an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1767 and elected member of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in 1769. despite being disabled, Maria Anna often played important roles in major events of state, and wrote a book on her mother’s politics. she never married due to her deformities and became an abbess instead.

C H R I S T I N A : the fourth daughter but only second surviving, she was her mother’s favourite child because they shared the same birthday. the doting that the Empress showed her caused intense jealousy between her brothers and sisters, especially Emperor Joseph II. however, his first wife, Isabella of Parma, became her best friend, and named her second daughter after her. Maria Christina was reportedly quite beautiful and talented as well as a very intelligent woman who knew how to manipulate her parents, especially her mother. the sudden death of her father, Francis I, and the depression that overcame Maria Theresa following her widowhood meant that Maria Christina was able to convince her vulnerable and sentimental mother into permitting her to marry for love rather than for reasons of state. she was the only child allowed to do so, and married a cousin who had neither a vast wealth or grand throne to offer. the marriage was happy. in Pozsony, they hosted a luxurious court life with frequent parties and visits home to Vienna. they managed to make themselves popular among the Hungarian nobility, and devoted themselves to their common interest in art, which made Pozsony a culture center during their time there; it was here they began their art collection, which was to become the famous Albertine Art Collection.  

Maria E L I S A B E T H : the sixth child, she was regarded as being very attractive - especially during her early youth - and was considered the most beautiful of all her sisters. therefore, there were high hopes to ensure her a marriage of the highest possible status. however, during the period of 1756–1763 when she would’ve normally married, there were difficulties finding a match considered suitable in age and status because of the political complications during the Seven Years’ War. as an adult in the Imperial Court, her mother was somewhat troubled by Maria Elisabeth’s reputation as a “coquette”. in 1768, the recently widowed Louis XV of France considered marrying her, yet smallpox would then mar her beautiful face, making her “unfit” for marriage and destroying any chance she had at becoming Queen of France. Maria Elisabeth was thus appointed cannoness of the Convent for Noble Ladies in Innsbruck by her mother, but unlike her sister Maria Anna who had a similar position, she did not  live in the convent and continued to stay at the Imperial Court. After the death of their mother in 1780, she and some of her sisters were asked by their brother Joseph II to leave court, because he he wanted to break up what he referred to as his sister’s Women Republic. 

Maria A M A L I A : the eighth child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, she was raised like her sisters to be the ideal consort. of all  her sisters, she was reported to have had the worse relationship with her mother, partly because Maria Amalia had fallen in love with Prince Charles of Zweibrücken, and though she openly expressed her wish to marry him (much in the same manner her sister Maria Christina had been permitted to marry for love) Maria Theresa forbade it and instead forced her into an arranged marriage. Aa her new husband, Ferdinand, was of a passive nature and content with occupying himself with his religious duties and raising his children, he left the state affairs entirely to her, and after excessive cabinet change, Maria Amalia was therefore the ruler of Parma, and as ruler, referred to by the public as La Signora and La Mata. she defended the independence of the Duchy of Parma from France, Spain and Austria, strengthened its inner sense of nationality, benefited art, culture and literature and worked efficiently with her ministerial cabinet. Ferdinand did not have political influence, and she openly changed and contradicted his orders and had him sign official state documents for her, including her name in his orders as if they were co-rulers. meanwhile, Maria Amalia caused a scandal with her personal lifestyle.she used the economic funds from her mother upon her wardrobe, a grand court and parties; she replaced most of her ladies-in-waiting with an entourage of Royal Guards composed of handsome young men, she cross-dressed as a male and spent her nights unaccompanied incognito on the streets, gambled her money on the officers’ club and, while Ferdinand took mistresses among the peasantry, she herself enjoyed affairs with members of his guard. she was greatly disliked by the Parmesan nobility, but popular amongst the public, known for her great and genuine generosity toward the poor. 

Maria J O H A N N A : she was described as likeable and good-natured, but died aged 12 of smallpox.

Maria J O S E P H A : she was the ninth but six surviving daughter of her parents. Empress Maria Theresa wanted to marry her fourth eldest surviving daughter, Archduchess Maria Amalia, to Ferdinand of Naples and Sicily for political reasons. After Ferdinand’s father Charles III of Spain objected to the five-year age difference however, Maria Josepha, as the next eldest daughter, was left as the obvious candidate for Ferdinand’s hand in marriage. She and Ferdinand were the same age, and better yet, Maria Josepha was considered "delightfully pretty, pliant by nature,” and the favorite of her brother Joseph. Maria Josepha had been terrified of dying of smallpox ever since the death of her older sister Archduchess Maria Johanna in 1762. hrer fears were realised when she died of smallpox on the very day she was to have left Vienna for her journey across the Alps to marry Ferdinand, at the age of sixteen years old.

Maria C A R O L I N A : she, as her parents thirteenth child, was a namesake of her elder sisters — Maria Carolina, who died two weeks after her first birthday, and Maria Carolina, who died several hours after being baptised —, but she was called Charlotte by her family. of all her sisters, she resembled her mother the most. Maria Carolina would go on to marry Prince Ferdinand as part of an Austrian alliance with Spain, where Ferdinand’s father was king. she reportedly reacted badly to the news of her engagement, crying, entreating and saying that Neapolitan marriages were unlucky, but went on to marry him nine months later anyways. the marriage was not particularly happy, and both bride and bridegroom were not quite taken with each other. nevertheless, the marriage was somewhat successful as Maria Carolina would go on to bear 18 children in total, only seven of whom survived into adulthood. As a mother she was adoring and caring, and, much like her own mother, took great pains to make politically advantageous marriages for her children. Maria Carolina promoted Naples as a centre of the arts, patronising painters such as Jacob Philipp Hackert and Angelica Kauffman as well as academics like Gaetano Filangieri, Domenico Cirillo, and Giuseppe Maria Galanti. 

The Invalid *  -  Georges Seurat  1879-81

French 1859-1891

*The so-called Invalid was a recurring theme in art and literature, particularly in Germany and France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and its popularity may have related to the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), which left many wounded veterans in their wake.

Conté Crayon on paper , 26x16 cm.