Marie Antoinette was a keen harpist since childhood, having been tutored by Philippe Joseph Hinner. She was also a keen artist and the painting, Marie Antoinette playing the harp at the French Court, was produced by one of her favourite artists, Jean-Baptiste André Gautier d'Agoty.
D'Agoty had been the queen's painter of choice since she came to France and became peintre de la reine in 1775. That same year, he began work on a painting showing Marie Antoinette playing the harp at Versailles. Surrounded by an audience of adoring courtiers, she happily performs music for their entertainment. Dressed casually in a morning gown, Marie Antoinette looks at ease in her role as hostess, though she remains the centre of both the scene and attention.
In the bottom right of the portrait d'Agoty has added himself as a character, sketching out the formal full-length portrait of the queen below. Clearly very happy with the way his life and career had gone, d'Agoty couldn't help but add a little self-congratulatory element to the painting and to the left Marie Antoinette's lady-in-waiting hands her the royal warrant that will name d'Agoty as peintre de la reine!
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.
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