Portraits of Queen Marie Leszczinska (1703-1768) were highly visible in eighteenth-century France. Appearing in royal châteaux and, after 1737, in the Parisian Salons, the queen's image was central to the visual construction of the monarchy. Her earliest portraits negotiated aspects of her ethnic difference, French gender norms, and royal rank to craft an image of an appropriate consort to the king. Later portraits by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Carle Van Loo, and Jean-Marc Nattier contributed to changing notions of queenship over the course of her 43 year tenure. Whether as royal wife, devout consort, or devoted mother, Marie Leszczinska's image mattered. While she has often been seen as a weak consort, this study argues that queenly images were powerful and even necessary for Louis XV's projection of authority. This is the first study dedicated to analyzing the queen's portraits. It engages feminist theory while setting the queen's image in the context of portraiture in France, courtly factional conflict, and the history of the French monarchy. While this investigation is historically specific, it raises the larger problem of the power of women's images versus the empowerment of women, a challenge that continues to plague the representation of political women today.
"This insightfully argued and beautifully written book is a major contribution to our understanding of the gender dynamics in European monarchy. Germann considers the institution of French queenship not through its more infamous and exceptional personages, but by investigating portraits of one who ideally performed her role. Long underestimated, Marie Leszczinska emerges in this book as an active shaper of her image, a person well aware of the politics that came with her monarchical position. Germann's study will hopefully bring about a serious rethinking of French queenship, as well as a reconsideration of how monarchical images conveyed symbolic power in the ancien régime."
- Michael Yonan, University of Missouri, USA
"In her engaging, persuasive book, Picturing Marie Leszczinska (1703-1768), Jennifer G. Germann explores through an examination of portraits how Marie Leszczinska navigated the roles and restrictions of queenship. Germann deftly examines these portraits in the contexts of both conventions of representation and the subtle dialog that took place between the various portraits of the queen, and those of Louis XV and his mistresses. Germann sheds new light on Marie Leszczinska's understudied position as queen, while insightfully addressing issues of the social and political role of queenship and gender identity, and the power of portraits to both reveal and shape ideologies. Germann's sensitivity to visual analysis and her thorough, wide-ranging research makes Marie Leszczinska an exemplar of scholarly innovation and a pleasure to read."
- Julie Plax, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
"Germann presents her investigation in a scholarly yet engaging manner. (…). The author recounts cultural, social, and political histories of the time, which enrich and strengthen her thesis. (…) The text is peppered with lovely illustrations that support her view and facilitate her analyses of visual representations of the monarchy."
- New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century. 14:1, Spring 2017
"As a welcome addition to the recent body of work on queens, Germann offers sophisticated analysis of one queen's portraits and situates them in their local, international, and aesthetic contexts. No previous scholar has provided such a compelling study of Leszczinska. … The book is well-suited for undergraduate study and advanced research in art history, queenship studies, and gender studies."
- Woman's Art Journal
Introduction; Framing queenship in France; Incorporating Marie Leszczinska; Sons and mothers; Gendering the French monarchy; The Queen's new image; Epilogue: memorializing Marie Leszczinska; Bibliography; Index.