Cathelin et Ducreux, “Elisabeth de France, soeur du roi”.
Paris, musée Carnavalet.
Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France, called Madame Elizabeth, was born May 3, 1764 at Versailles. Sister to Louis XVI, orphaned at the age of three, she received an excellent education and was distinguished by her talents in mathematics and science.
In 1783, Louis XVI gave her land and a house in the village of Montreuil, that remains today in the district of Montreuil at Versailles under the name “Domaine de Madame Elisabeth.”
She quickly developed a strong attachment to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, by whose side she remained all his life especially refusing to marry. Under the Terror, she had to appear before the Revolutionary Court and was sentenced to death. She was guillotined May 10, 1794 in Paris.
1. Verity wears an ‘open gown’, or Robe à l’Anglaise, probably of white cotton muslin. The Robe à l’Anglaise is a bodice with an open skirt attached; it closes in the front of the bodice (usually with hooks and eyes) and is worn over a separate, tightly gathered skirt. Such gowns were fashionable day wear. With elaborate whitework embroidery like in the picture shown, from the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, such a gown could also be used as suitable evening wear for a lady of the gentry.
2. Demelza’s hair is styled in the fashionable ‘greek’ style that was popular at the very end of the 18th century and reached its heyday in the early 1800s. Colourful ribbons were threaded through the hair, which was usually styled over padding or a wire frame and enhanced with elaborate extensions. The look aimed for was a ‘natural’ one as opposed to the stiff hairstyles of the earlier 18th century. In the self-portrait of
Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux from 1791, the painter can be seen wearing such a ‘greek’ hairstyle.
3. Elizabeth wears a silk taffeta Robe à l’Anglaise with a so-called ‘zone front’, that is a part of the bodice cut to look like a separate little jacket. Again, the dress closes at the front as you can see in both Elizabeth’s pale pink gown as well as in the silk-and-cotton dress from Philadelphia Museum of Art, dating to
1785-93. It was very fashionable to pin little bouquets of flowers to the neckline. By changing the trims on the neckline, adding ruffles or lace, the look of a gown could be altered.
4. Ross wears a 3-piece suit, consisting of a frock coat (overcoat), a waistcoat (vest) and breeches (knee-length trousers). Stockings, heeled shoes, a smallsword, a neck stock (cravat) and a tricorn hat would complete such an outfit. The choice of simple wools and velvets is suitable for a man of his standing, and blue was one of the easiest colours to dye at that time. The cut of men’s clothes did not change a lot during the 18th century, so the blue wool and silk coat from the 1750s, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, appears in the same shape and form as Ross’.
5. Demelza wears a simple ‘round gown’ that closes in the back via hooks and eyes. Her attire is very demure compared to the other ladies at the ball, but that befits her social standing. The most costly thing about this dress would have been the bright yellow silk taffeta, since silk was generally expensive and yellow not an easy colour to dye. Though simple, the skirts of her gown would be gathered by hand into many tiny pleats at the back, achieving the desired fullness of the skirt in the back, as this example from the Victoria & Albert Museum shows.