Friday, July 6, 2018

"Petit Trianon and Marie-Antoinette: Representation, Interpretation, Perception"

Here is the thesis "Petit Trianon and Marie-Antoinette: Representation, Interpretation, Perception" by Dr. Denise Maior-Barron for the University of Plymouth (U.K) in which I have the honor of being mentioned. Denise wrote to me years ago with questions concerning Marie-Antoinette and we had a wonderful exchange of ideas. She has a book coming out this month, HERE. Her paper is a must-read for any serious student of the French Revolution and especially of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. To quote:
The thesis examines Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette in the context of four major narratives that are relevant to the contemporary heritage interpretation of the Estate of Marie-Antoinette as well as its perception by the majority of its visitors. Fieldwork research has detected these to be the historical, cinematic, architectural and heritage narratives of Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette. The Estate is part of the Château de Versailles UNESCO heritage site, and has recently been subjected to a restoration and renaming as the Estate of Marie-Antoinette, designed to strengthen its identity as home to the last Queen of France.


UNESCO inscribed the heritage site of the Palace of Versailles in 1979. The second most visited museum in the world after the Louvre (UNWTO 2013 Report), Versailles remains a symbol of the French Monarchy, mainly represented by two historical characters: Louis XIV or the Sun King, the founder of the Royal Court of Versailles since the end of the 17th century, and Marie-Antoinette, the last Queen of France who reigned at the end of the 18th century. Despite the fact that both figures belong to the Ancien Régime, the first is generally regarded in a positive light, whereas the latter is renowned as iniquitous. This ubiquitous cliché, deeply rooted in French collective memory, was the initial instigator to the present analysis which attempts to dispel many myths surrounding this  perception, by unpacking the narrative of Petit Trianon, the residence identified as the home par excellence to Marie Antoinette.

The controversy surrounding the historical character of the last Queen of France provided motivation for the research project. To fulfill the first aim of the analysis (see A1) - the thesis needs to analyse the representations of Marie-Antoinette (O1). In order to achieve this on a practical level, all collected data are filtered via assessment, in the final thesis chapters (Chapters 7, 8), against the impact of each of the four investigated narratives on the majority of visitors at Petit Trianon (O2), along with the emergent images of Marie Antoinette resulting in the commodification of this historical figure. The results of the assessment establish the ranked prevalence of these main narratives within the perception of the majority of visitors at Petit Trianon, enabling not only the detection of the range of contemporary images associated with Marie Antoinette (A1) but also an explanation for the existence of these images, which supports the second aim of the thesis and its objectives (see A2; O3; O4). (Read more.)
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