And you can learn all about Marie Antoinette at the Grand Palais museum in Paris, through June 30.
Marie Antoinette never actually said, "Let them eat cake."
But she was a fan of lavish pleasures. And even in a world before paparazzi, the Austrian-born French queen was the subject of much public fascination and scrutiny.
She was glamorous, pampered and eventually beheaded. And you can learn all about her life at "Marie Antoinette," at the Grand Palais museum in Paris, through June 30.
The major exhibition begins with her childhood in Austria - where she was born an archduchess in 1755 - and ends with her facing the guillotine in Paris in 1793.
Paintings, sculpture, porcelain, furnishings and more are on display in several rooms, some done up to feel like rooms at Versailles, where Marie was first sent at age 14 to be Louis XVI's future bride. It is clear looking at the items and paintings that she liked beautiful things - some credit her with setting high standards for French decorative arts.
At Versailles, Marie Antoinette was adulated. And she ate it up. She spent freely and had all the major events of her life illustrated by celebrated artists including her wedding and festivities in 1770 and the births of her children and the celebrations that ensued.
At the beginning of the French Revolution, Louis XVI kept his wife away from politics, and she focused instead on the arts - including decorating the palace - and fashion.
Public opinion turned against her - and the fact the royal court tried to protect her image by commissioning large portraits of her in extravagant dresses with lavish jewelry did not help.
The exhibit also includes the anti-Marie Antoinette political pamphlets and satirical cartoons that resulted - most citing the queen's preoccupation with her image.
Poignantly, also on display are the sparse accessories she had in prison at the end of her life - she was put to death at age 37.
"What was real and what was myth?" asks the printed commentary (mostly in French; English-speaking visitors may want to rent the audio program). We are asked to consider whether Marie was a frivolous spendthrift or misunderstood victim - the answer probably lies somewhere in between.
"Marie Antoinette" at the Grand Palais is open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closes at 8 p.m. on Thursdays; closed Tuesdays. Admission is about $15.50, and the audio guide an additional $7.75. Tickets are on an assigned-time basis. For more information, visit www.rmn.fr.
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