This portrait of Madame de Senonnes is my second favorite work of art. It is also painted by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (who painted our previous historical fashion post).
Before our sitter was Madame de Senonnes, this lady was Marie-Genevieve-Marguerite Marcoz. Marie was born to a wealthy family and in 1802, she married a merchant draper named Jean Marcoz. In 1803, the couple moved to the eternal city, Rome and had a daughter that same year.
But the marriage was an unhappy one and by 1809, the couple separated. During this time, Marie mixed in artistic circles and she met Alexandre de la Motte-Barace, Viscount of Senonne. They married in 1815 and returned to France.
In France, the Bourbon Restoration had occurred first in 1814 when Napoleon was defeated in Russia and the Peninsular War. Even though in June 1815, Napoleon had escaped from Elba and again, raised an army. He was defeated at Waterloo and exiled to the island of St. Helena where Louis XVIII of France once again claimed the French throne.
This time period was experiencing a Romantic movement as well as a Neoclassical one. Both influences are very much on display in this portrait. The Grecian style dress silhouette and hairstyles were fashionable until the mid-1820s. But the romantic movement that was at its height and can be seen in the gown’s details.
Before we deconstruct her gown, let’s determine what she has underneath it all. Beneath her gown, she would be wearing garments that every woman would have don. First she would have put on her chemise. That garment would have be constructed of linen or cotton. Then she would have had put on stays. This undergarment would have been stiffened to support her breast. And she would have slipped on her stockings (not seen in the portrait). These could have been of silk or wool and held up by a garter.
The Romantic movement looked to the past especially the middle ages and the renaissance. Madame de Senonnes is wearing an afternoon dress. This is determined by the lower neckline with long sleeves and made of silk or fancier fabric than a morning dress would have been made of.
Madame de Senonnes’ dress is made of red or maroon velvet. It has long sleeves with attached dove blue silk slashes to simulate the historical Renaissance fashion of the sixteenth century. In 1815, the fashion was for heavier fabrics than a couple of years before. The silhouette of the garment would have had a flatter front and would be fuller in back of skirts (that cannot be seen in portrait). Another style choice of the romantic movement is the white lace cuff that imitates the ruffs of the sixteenth century. Her neckline is square and constructed of fine white sheer fabric and finished with a three tier lace neck ruff. Her high-waisted gown has a matching dove blue silk or satin sash.
Madame de Senonnes accents her gown with her accessories. She has donned numerous gold necklaces with charms that include a cross and another that resembles a hourglass. She has a brooch of jade and perhaps ruby pinned just below the sash. She is wearing stacked jeweled rings on four fingers while the middle finger of the right hand has one ring. Clutched In her hand is a white handkerchief. On her ears, she is wearing ruby earring that might be silver or white gold. And tucked in her twisted up hair is a hair comb made of gold and red jewels most likely rubies. These accessories reflect an afternoon style through in a portrait the sitter would wear their best garments and jewels.
Another accessory that I just love is her shawl that drapes behind her and wraps around her to the left of her. It’s is made of ivory cashmere with a wide embroidered edge. The designs reminds me of something found in an illuminated manuscript from medieval times or a design from India or another foreign country whose styles centers on a natural design. The embriodery is of a red, blue and mustardy-yellow floral print and accented with scrolls.
Madame de Senonnes died in 1828. This is what remains of her.
2 thoughts on “The Lady Wore”
I’ve never seen this portrait before, but I am bowled over by it – and by the fascinating information in your post about Madame Senonnes. What a glorious painting.
Thank you. She was an interesting lady and I glad to share it because I didn’t even know about her life beyond that portrait.