Sunday, 28 September 2014

Tussaud head of Marie-Antoinette

Head of Carrier
Yes, yet more! This head of Marie-Antoinette is reproduced from a photograph in the Collection de Vinck in the Bibliothèque nationale (département Estampes).  It is identified as from Madame Tussaud's and dated 1906. This gives us a date for the equally fine and very similarly mounted Carrier reproduced in the Romance of Madame Tussaud (1920).   (Compare also the Robespierre with the ribbon round his chin which I have since also seen identified as from Madame Tussaud's)
Wax heads of Marie-Antoinette are attested at Tussaud's only from 1865, but royal tableaux were a feature of Curtius's waxworks at an early date.  

Here is another old picture of the royal heads, posted on Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette; apparently it was on sale on e-bay for 330 Euro; I wonder if anyone paid?.  See:

Friday, 26 September 2014

Is this the face of Marie-Antoinette????

Marie-Antoinette in the Temple prison, by Alexandre Kucharski.
Oil on canvas.  58cm x 68 cm. Described as in a "Parisian collection

This startling and hitherto completely unknown portrait of Marie-Antoinette is now much reproduced on the internet.  The origin of the images seems to be the book Portraits des femmes (2006) by the Olivier Blanc, who is a well-known French art expert and freelance historical writer - the picture features prominently on the cover of his work.  

According to Blanc (p.171-4) this is an uncatalogued portrait in oil, by the court painter Alexandre Kucharski, painted at the Temple some time after 10 August 1792 and showing Marie-Antoinette in semi-mourning costume following the death of the Princesse de Lamballe.  It is known that Kucharski gained access to the Temple to sketch his famous last portrait of the Queen, so the presumption is that this represents an earlier sitting, worked up into a finished portrait in the studio, possibly at a much later date. Blanc, who has clearly examined the picture, says that the frame gives no clues to dating within ten years; possibly it is as late as the end of the Directory or even the Empire period when Kucharsky's reputation was revived by his portrait of the singer Madame Barbier-Walbonne. The flesh tones and use of white silks in the two paintings perhaps suggest a similar date.

Madame Barbier Walbonne
by Kucharski. 1808/10.
Although the painting is listed by Blanc only as belonging to a "Parisian collector" the owner can easily be discovered;  it is none other than Jacques Larcia, fabulously rich interior designer, and leading force behind the restoration work at Versailles.  It hangs prominently in the salon de compagnie of his sumptuously refurbished Château du Champ-de-Bataille in the Eure.  Unfortunately, despite Larcia's penchant for self-advertisement, there is no information on exactly how he acquired the work or where it might have been hiding for two hundred years.  It seems odd that a dozen or copies exist of Kucharski's last portrait of Marie-Antoinette - Kucharski himself made a cottage industry of reproducing it - yet this much more elegantly finished image has remained completely unknown.  The fact in itself, however,  suggests a relatively late date of composition.

Madame Élisabeth
 in the Temple by Kucharski
(private collection)
Detractors have looked desperately for reasons to doubt the picture's authenticity.  There is a good discussion on Le forum de Marie-Antoinette where "Cosmo Ramirez" is a reluctant but particularly well-informed defender. 

Contributors have queried (among other things) the empire-line dress, the silly hat and the white bow, but there is a very similar bonnet in Kucharski's late portrait of Madame Élisabeth in the Temple.  Cosmo has even come up with documentary evidence for the bow as part of a conventional mourning outfit ("le petit deuil") worn by the Queen on an earlier occasion. A picture by Jean-Jacques Hauer depicting Louis XIV's final farewell to his family shows Marie Antoinette with very similar long frizzy hair.

So much for the props, but what about the face? In comparisons with earlier portraits or with portraits of the Empress Maria Theresa, the picture again fares reasonably well.  You can find noses and mouths that are very similar. The main stumbling block is probably those big doleful, slightly reproachful eyes, which create a suitably sorrowful mine, but seem quite unlike other depictions.  Here is the portrait (flipped) compared with other Kucharskis.

Here it is again compared to (my favourite) portrait by Joseph Boze:

 Personally, I  do not like this picture - it reminds me too much of a great-aunt of mine, who suffered from a slight thyroid condition.  Marie-Antoinette has the same slightly pursed, disapproving mouth and tendency to double chin.  Such a beautifully finished painting also makes her seem a little too plump and glossy to inspire pity.  I agree with Cosmo -   this is indeed intended to be Marie Antoinette, though probably it was painted at some remove in time; and, whatever its accuracy as a likeness, as a work of art it fails to satisfy the imagination.


Olivier Blanc, Portraits des femmes :  artistes et modèles à l'époque de Marie-Antoinette (2006),p.172-4.

Discussion on the "Le Forum de Marie-Antoinette":
On "Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette"

On Jacques Garcia: 
Château du Champ-de-Bataille website:

See also: Marie-Antoinette is photoshopped (unfortunately into a modern movie star rather than an 18th-century person)

This digitally altered image has recently been posted on Pinterest; it would be more useful if there was an explanation to go with it  - maybe it incorporates data from another portrait to show the overlap?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The two shirts of Louis XVI.....

Being executed is a little hard on the linen....

As previously posted, one of the items in the Collection Bancel sale of 2003 was the shirt/ nightshirt Louis XVI changed out of on the morning of his execution on 21st January 1793.

The evidence of provenance is straightforward. The shirt is accompanied by  a manuscript note,  "Chemise left by the King Louis XVI at the Temple 21st January 1793". The shirt remained in the family of Louis's valet de chambre Cléry until 1882 when the husband of Cléry's great-granddaughter sold it to M.Philippe Gille.  There are records for its sale in Rouen in 1896 and by Drouot in Pescheteau on 20 March 1965 (Lot no.43)

Philippe Gille is no mystery.  He was a well-known Parisian personality of his day - journalist and secretary of the Théâtre Lyrique, he was also the friend and collaborator of Victor Sardou. He housed a considerable private collection in his Hôtel in the rue Jouffroy, which boasted a window and balcony from Marat's demolished house in the rue des Cordeliers!.

Further details of Gille's collection can be found in a 19th-century book on Louis XVII.  As well as the shirt, it lists several other memorabilia which found their way into the Bancel collection, notably the key to the Temple and the green striped coat which belonged to the Dauphin. The text confirms the provenance and insists that the objects were labelled by Cléry himself.

See: François Régis Chantelauze, Les derniers chapitres de mon Louis XVII (1887) p.54.

So far so good.  I was very puzzled, therefore, by this photograph, which appeared on the PlaneteUMP forum (01.02.2013)

The post reveals that this too is the shirt said to have been worn by Louis on the morning of his execution! It was preserved by Cléry but, rather than being kept in Cléry's own family, was given by him to the duchesse d'Angoulême. It was sold as part of the collection of the Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon-Parme in 2003 or 2005; the photo is from the sale preview (and has what is probably a lot number, 42).

A post on the Forum du Royaume de France (28.05.2012) alludes to this same sale and mentions other lots: 

  • An outfit which belonged to Louis XVII (preserved by Madame de Campan)
  • A medallion containing the hair of Louis and Marie-Antoinette
  • A key to the Temple prison
  • The death mask of the comte de Chambord (aka "Henri V")
  • A white standard of the comte de Chambord

I admit to being confused!  Details of this second sale have so far evaded all my Googling efforts. I am not even quite sure whether there are really two shirts or just a muddle over the one. What I do know for certain is that the present owner of a/the shirt is one of France's foremost private collectors, the financier Bruno Ledoux, who plans to create a public museum in his new property, the palais du Roi de Rome at Rambouillet.  He was very pleased with his shirt and ferried it off in triumph on his scooter!

See: Cyril Hofstein, "Bruno Ledoux, collectionneur de l'impossible", Le  3rd August 2012

Marc Baudriller, "Bruno Ledoux, actionnaire de Libé et passionné d'histoire", Challenges,‎ 13th Febuary 2014

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Memories from the Temple - Collection Alain Bancel

Alain Bancel was a collector with an obsessive interest in the French Revolution's saddest victim, the little Dauphin Louis-Charles, posthumously recognised as Louis XVII. Over thirty years, he managed to amass in his modest apartment in northern Paris a collection to rival that of the Carnavalet. 

Unhappily on M. Bancel's death in 2003 his collection was "victime du fisc" and had to be dispersed. It became one of the auctions of the season. There were 470 lots,with an estimate of 450,000  and the sale eventually realised 760,000 €. 

Some of these rare pictures and objects have now found their way into public collections.  But how extraordinary to see photos of them jumbled together in true 18th-century style in M. Bancel's home!. (Photos from the website Musée Louis xvii.)


Lot 76:  Autograph of the Dauphin Louis Charles (Louis XVII) c.1790

A rare writing exercise in the hand of the Dauphin, later Louis XVII, dating from about 1790. From the inheritors of the abbé Dumesnil de Saint-Cyr. professeur d'écriture des enfants de France  [ Sold for 11, 794 €]


Lot 83: Note signed by Marie-Antoinette and Madame Élisabeth

Note from Marie-Antoinette and Madame Élisabeth, signed by Marie-Antoinette "M.A." and dating from the end of March 1793.  Such notes were smuggled out of the Temple in bottles etc. It was entrusted to the Chevalier de Jarjayes for the comte d'Artois, to accompany the gift of Louis XVI's ring and a lock of his hair.  [Sold for 22 409 €]

Lot 186:  Shirt worn by Louis XVI on the morning of his execution

This  nightshirt, preserved by Cléry, was taken off by Louis XVI on the morning of 21st January 1793, when he dressed to leave the Temple tower for the last time  [sold for 12 383 €]
Also from Cléry, Lot 187: a pair of Louis's breeches [sold for 10 615 €.]

Lot 193: Knitting needles belonging to Marie-Antoinette

Ivory knitting needles which belonged to Marie-Antoinette.  An accompanying note certifies that they had been retrieved from the Tuileries by Tison the gaoler's daughter and used by Marie-Antoinette in the Temple. [The estimate of 4-5,000 € was smashed; the needles   fetched 30 664 € !]

Lot 215:  Outfit belonging to the Dauphin Louis Charles

Outfit belonging to the Dauphin in brown and beige striped material comprising a coat with eight buttons, a waistcoat and trousers. Made for a child of 1 metre 20 (3ft 11 inches) 7-8 years old, but painfully thin. It had been preserved by the royal valet de chambre Cléry and remained in his family until 1882.  Estimated at 12 000 €, it sold for 19,460  €. 

The purchaser was a public collection, the Musée Galliera (Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris), which also owns a beautiful pink silk costume of the Dauphin's, dating from happier times in Versailles.   The Galliera does not have a permanent display, but the outfits are occasionally exhibited. 

Also in the sale were two of the Dauphin's coats (Lot 208 and Lot 209),  plus various other more pathetic items of clothing: a white chemise (Lot 212), now also in the Musée Galliera and even one of the little boy's socks.

Lot 226: Key to the Temple tower

The key (depicted above with various lots comprising further keys and fragments of upholstery etc. from the Temple) came from collection of Philippe Gille, whose grand-father, a commissaire de police, acquired it when the tower was demolished. (Sold for 9 671 €.). 

Lot 368: Copy of Kucharski's last portrait of Marie-Antoinette, thought to have been made by the artist himself (oil)

Sold for 28 306 €, against an estimate of 3-4,000 €

Lot 373: Anonymous copy of a portrait of Louis XVII by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun 

Presumed copy of a lost original portrait of Louis XVII by EVB destroyed by order of the Committee of General Security in June 1794.  The estimate for this picture was  6,000 €, but I do not know how much it made.  For discussion of the documentation, see:


"In Memorandum": images of the Bancel collection on the Musée Louis xvii website.

Picture of Alain Bancel at work cataloguing his paintings for the Musée Louis xvii, posted  on the forum Le boudoir de Marie-Antoinette

Judith Benhamou-Huet "A la mémoire de Louis XVII" , article in 16/05/2003

Sale catalogue:
PIASA: Sale of  Wednesday 21st May 2003
Vente Souvenirs Historiques Autour de Louis XVII : Collection Alain Bancel

Details of the prices fetched:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Marie-Antoinette's final portrait

Portrait of Marie-Antoinette
by Alexander Kucharski
24 x 18 cm
Apart from David's famous sketch of the Queen on her way to the scafford,  this portrait, by the former Court painter, Kucharski, is the very last portrait of Marie-Antoinette from life. It was posed for a short time after Louis's execution in January 1793, not as sometimes claimed, when Marie-Antoinette was being held at the Conciergerie.  At this time letters were still exchanged with the royal prisoners and discreet visits to the Temple could be arranged; it is possible that Kucharski was himself somehow involved in an abortive attempt at flight orchestrated by the Queen's femme de chambre Madame Reynier de Jarjayes, for the night of 9th-10th March 1793. The administer Michonis who was subsequently arrested and interrogated at the beginning of September 1793 admitted allowing entry to "various people", among them a "painter". Marie-Antoinette herself explained that the Kucharski had simply come to paint a pastel - his Polish name was so badly transcribed that he was not identified at the time. According to the Prince d'Arenberg Kucharski saw Marie-Antoinette twice, on both occasions incognito.  (The legend is unsubstantiated that he disguised himself as a National Guardsman, a ruse which was certainly used by the artist Laurent Dabos to enter the Temple to paint Louis XVI and his son. Significantly, on 1st April 1793 the Commune decreed that no-one guarding the Temple or anything else could engage in drawing under pain of arrest.)  The existence of Kucharski's work was known among émigrés from 1793: Ferson looked for it ("All that came from her will be precious to me"). The dating suggests, therefore, that the picture was sketched between the end of January and the beginning of March, then finished off at a later point in Kucharski's studio, rue du Coq-Héron.

There are a number of different versions and copies of the portrait. The oil from  Versailles, reproduced at the top of this post, is one of the best quality copies accessible to view, and is generally attributed to Kucharski himself.  The one above, a pastel, first published in the comte Walsh de Serrant 's Souvenirs de la Révolution  in 1901, is held by Olivier Blanc to be the original.  Dimensions are unknown. The manuscript annotation, by Louis d'Uzès,  affirms that the portrait was made at the Temple after the death of Louis XVI and was intended for his aunt, the Princesse de Tarente,  who had escaped the September Massacres and taken refuge in London.  At the time of publication in 1901 the picture was still in the family; according to Olivier Blanc it may still be extant.

Jallut, fig.29
and photograph, Bibl.Nat. 28cm x22 cm

A different - and noticeably less square-faced - version was published as the original by the older French expert Marguerite Jallut in an article of 1939 and in her book on Marie-Antoinette and her painters in 1955. This picture, again a pastel, belonged to M. Dubois de Chefdebien in Paris in 1939 but, according to Marguerite Jallut,  was destroyed in the Second World War.  It too was accompanied by a manuscript note (see photo left): "Portrait of Marie-Antoinette by Koharski who, taking service as a National Guard in the Temple after the death of Louis XVI, contrived to see the Queen.  He had already painted her in 1780.  He sketched this picture down to the smallest details of her mourning clothes." (see Jallut, p.262.)

A third "original", this time an oil painting on a canvas mounted on wood, belonged to the collection of Prince Auguste d'Arenberg  in Brussels.  According to the d'Arenberg Galerie catalogue of 1829 Kucharski had kept it hidden for a long time and finally gave it to Prince Auguste d'Arenberg, during a trip the latter made to Paris in 1805.

An inscription on the back read as follows:
"Portrait of Queen Marie-Antoinette when she was at the Temple, very exact in its detail, down to the pin which held her fichu, as she was dressed shortly before her transfer to the Conciergerie.  This picture was painted by Koharski who had painted the portrait of this unhappy princess in 1780;  he became a national guard in the service of the Temple, saw the queen, studied her with great attention, and, going back to his studio, drew her from memory.  He was in the service of the Temple a second time, studied the queen again and, returning to his studio, finished the portrait. I obtained it from Koharski himself, I knew it to have been painted by him and he knew how much I was attached to the queen.  This painting  is the original; several other copies were subsequently made by Koharski himself and then by others." Signed Auguste Arenberg
(Jallut (1939) p.262; See also the e-version of the D'Arenberg catalogue (1859), p.112

Oil on canvas, wood mount, 25cm x 20cm.
 Formerly Collection d’Arenberg, Bruxelles.
Photograph in the Bibl. Nat:

 This text is very similar in wording to the note with the first portrait described by Marguerite Jallut, though there is no direct evidence that the Prince d'Arenberg was author of both.  Presumably the suggestion (quite reasonably) is that the pastel represented a preliminary study and the oil a more finished version.  In reality there is no definite means of establishing priority between the early pictures - especially since in all three cases the originals are lost.


Notice From JOCONDE of the Versailles portrait:

Olivier Blanc, Portraits de femmes : Artistes et modèles à l'époque de Marie-Antoinette  
(2006), p.172-4.

Cosmos Raminez, "Marie-Antoinette en deuil, par Kucharsky" on Le forum de Marie-Antoinette  21/12/2013.  This post has a comprehensive set of illustrations of known versions of the picture.

Marguerite Jallut, "Kucharski, dernier peintre de Marie-Antoinette", in Revue d'Histoire de la Philosophie et d'Histoire générale de la Civilisation, Lille, juillet-décembre 1939, p.251-271.

"KUCHARSKI, Alexandre" in Neil Jeffares, Dictionary of pastellists before 1800 [online edition. Updated 12 Feb 2014]

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Marie-Antoinette at the Château du Cambon

Here is another nice place for the holiday itinerary!  The Château du Cambon in the Auvergne, beautiful in itself, is venue for18th-century themed concerts and events, amd home to an obsessively accumulated collection of works of art and memorabilia relating to Marie-Antoinette.

You can see the Château  in this YouTube video published in May 2014. (It is a bit of a pity about the zoom-in on the television parked in the middle of the 18th-century decor!):

The  Château, constructed in 1580, started off life as a typical Auvergnat medieval fortified house with a round tower, a square tower, corps de logis and gated enclosure. However, in 1753 it received a radical make-over and was completely transformed by the marquis Jean-Raymond de Calonne into "une résidence de plaisance" The main building contains an enfilade of rooms on each floor, ending on the ground floor in the library, which boasts a complete works of Rousseau.  To the rear is the dining room set out in Louis XV style.  Rooms on the second floor are grander in scale: there is a galerie des blasons with doors through to  a chapel and seven splendid master-bedrooms, decked out with canopied beds and Aubusson tapestries.

The present owner is René Monboisse: the Château had been in the family of his late wife, Françoise de Surrel de Montbel, a descendant of Lafayette, since 1802. Visitors are often entertained by M. Monboisse personally on the piano in his salon.

Unfortunately there is no online guidebook or listing of paintings and furniture.  The website for the Château shows a tapestry depicting Marie-Antoinette (above) and the portrait below (which also features in the video).

As previously noted M. Monboisse is reported to have acquired the fine Kucharski portrait of Marie-Antoinette from the collection of Alain Bancel sold at auction in 2003.  (Though, if so, it does not appear in the publicity shots.) Another highlight is a portrait of Axel von Fersen hanging in a petit salon. I reckon it is the picture below, which was sold at auction in Paris in July 2007.

Portrait of Hans Axel, comte de Fersen 
Attributed to Charles-Etienne Leguay (1762-1846), 
27cm x 22 cm

Château du Cambon website:

"Le château du Cambon rappelle la douceur du siècle des Lumières"  Article in, 29/07/2012

PIASA catalogue entry for the Fersen painting.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Death of the princesse de Lamballe (further cont.)

"Death of the Princess de Lamballe" 
by Léon-Maxime Faivre (painted in 1908)


According to all accounts Madame de Lamballe's head was almost immediately hacked off.  The official minutes of the Quinze-Vingts section  recording the later deposition of her possessions, is cited by Antoine De Baecque (p.65) as evidence that her remains were otherwise left intact.  The text is given in full below. Unfortunately I am not so sure that this evidence establishes beyond doubt that the body was fully-clothed and unmolested. The men involved were noted by the Section clerk as "bearers of the former princesse de Lamballe, who had just been killed at the Hôtel de La Force".   It is not at all clear from the wording (in English or French) that the men had the body with them at all; maybe they had been its "bearers" in the crowd? The possessions listed were merely "among her clothes", not necessarily on her person. Possibly they were the same set of valuables later deposited with the Assembly as "in her pockets" (in the 18th century substantial cloth bags which could be sewn into clothing) (see Lenotre, Last Days of Marie-Antoinette, p.48nt.). Commissioner Daujon, an eye-witness, recalls a naked body, slashed down the front.....with the crowd waving on pikes a blooded chemise and an unspeakable piece of offal, presumed to be the Princess's heart.  However, Daujon dismissed the more exaggerated tales of eaten hearts and mutilated genitals relayed to him by his colleague Bazire, a member of the Committee of Surveillance of the Assembly which later formally received the Revolutionaries and their spoils.  Unlikely too are the claims that her breasts were torn off (which seems to originate with the comte de Fersen - see letter below); on the whole Revolutionary accounts lack the element of sexual aggression suggested by later - by and large royalist - sources.

The Revolutionaries attached ropes to the naked body in order to drag it off.  The impression is one of excited and drunken men who at first had little idea what to do with their spoils. The procession through Paris is described as the initiative of a few ringleaders, though no doubt they acquired a larger jeering crowd as they progressed.  In several accounts Charlat, Grison and their associates first entering a nearby cabaret  ("a marchand de vin du cul-de-sac des Pretres"), placed the head on the counter and demanded that the merchant drink with them to her health and that of the Queen. It was at this point that, determining to reunite the two women, they mounted the head on a pike and set off for the Temple. 

The head of the princesse de Lamballe appears at the Temple. 
Here is the episode as depicted in the film The French Revolution (1989) directed by Richard T. Heffron. (Posted on YouTube 12 Jul 2008)

At the Temple

The tavern story may be apocryphal, but the arrival of the crowd with its horrible trophies at the Temple was very much real. On 3rd September the royal family had already been alarmed by rumours of massacre, but at ten o'clock Manuel (who, as we have seen, had good reason for optimism) had erroneously informed the royal family that the princesse de Lamballe was safe. Mercifully, the King and Queen were peacefully playing backgammon upstairs when the head suddenly appeared in view outside the dining room. Cléry saw it, as did Madame Tison who gave a loud cry; then they heard the frenzied laughter of "those savages" outside. Upstairs the municipal officers closed the shutters and the royal couple were kept away from the windows. Nonetheless when Louis enquired, one of their number blurted out, "If you must know, Monsieur, they are trying to show you the head of Madame de Lamballe".  Cléry too rushed in and confirmed what was happening.

In principle the royal family were well guarded, with a rotated "Council" of eight officers of the Commune, responsible for a considerable force of National Guardsmen. However, the Commissioners were hesitant and unwilling to act without instruction from the Commune.  It was Daujon, on duty that day, who prevented the crowd from entering the Temple by placing a tricolour ribbon over the door and insisting bravely that "the head of Antoinette" was not for them to take (See his account below).  Thus, although the head was paraded around the Tower for some time further, the Queen never actually saw it, "leaving the image, for better or for worse, to the eye of her appalled imagination" (Antonia Fraser, p.467) Later Marie-Thérèse listened to her mother's weeping through the night.

At the suggestion of Daujon, the crowd now returned towards the centre of Paris towards the Palais-royal, were narrowly dissuaded from invading the duc de Penthièvre's residence at the Hôtel de Toulouse (now the Banque de France) and then fetched up outside the duc d'Orléan's, where the latter feigned elaborate indifference.  The memoirs of the future King Louis-Philippe record the horror of his younger brother Beaujolais who looked up innocently from his lessons to recognise his aunt's head at the end of a pike. (Memoirs, ed. Hardman (1977),p.261 nt.)

Chapel of the Orléans family at Dreux, rebuilt by the duchesse d'Orléans,
daughter of the 
duc de Penthièvre in 1816

The end of the affair

It was back in the rue Saint-Antoine that the agents of the duc de Penthièvre, in pursuit of the Princess's remains,  finally caught up with the Revolutionaries (See the passage from the Memoirs of Weber quoted below). Temporarily allowing the body to be abandoned at Châtelet, they inveigled Charlat  into a tavern and took possession of the head.  (As a final cruelty, the possessors had had shorn the beautiful hair, which the duc would have cherished as a memento.)   This account fits in with the official deposition from the Quinze-Vingts Section which mentions the duc's man Jean Pointel, as applying for release of the head at about seven that evening. There is also no particular reason to doubt the  statement that the duc later rescued the remains (of the head?)  from the Cimitière des Innocents and had it transported to his mausoleum at Dreux, subsequently desecrated in the Terror.  The general consensus is that the sorry remains of the Princess's body were never found.  (The Secret Memoirs has the supposed testimony of a police officer: the duc had offered any money for the body if could be found for burial.  Manuel exerted all this authority.  But the torso was completely naked and could not be identified.(p.329))

Other more doubtful episodes


According to one source Lamballe's head was initially taken to a wigmaker's shop in the rue des Ballets opposite the prison to "be curled, made up with vermilion, and a tricolor ribbon placed in her hair so that it would be beautiful to her friend".  Rétif de la Bretonne too mentions the plaiting and powdering of Lamballe's "stained blond hair".  In Antonia Fraser's view this action is plausible as it would make her more recognisable; it certainly echoes similar stories concerning the murdered guardsmen of October 1789.
See Rétif de la Bretonne,  quoted below; Antoine de Baeque, Glory and terror, p.79. 

Madame Tussaud moulds the head of the Princess. 

The severed head of the princesse de Lamballe was the first that Madame Tussaud claimed  she was forced to mould.  Her Memoirs describe how the terrible relic was taken to her: the savage murderers stood over her whilst, shrinking with horror, she was compelled to take a cast from the features of the unfortunate princess".  She presents this as a profoundly traumatic experience: "Alas for Madame Tussaud, to have the severed head of one so lovely in her trembling hands was hard indeed to bear". On the other hand, as she comments a trifle disingenuously, she was keen to have a keepsake of the Princess: "Eager to retain a memento of the hapless princess, Madame Tussaud proceeded to perform her melancholy task, whilst surrounded by the brutal monsters, whose hands were bathed in the blood of the innocent". As Kate Berridge comments, most people would have settled for a lock of hair!   Tussaud's  never showed this commission in England, though 19th-century catalogues record that she displayed a full-length figure of the Princess, whilst the press in Liverpool praised "the extremely beautiful and highly finished incumbent figure of the Princesse de Lamballe".  Nor did she hesitate to include lurid details of the murder to spice up the catalogues.
(Kate Berridge, Waxing mythical (2006), p.139-40.)


Antoine De Baecque, Glory and Terror: seven deaths under the French Revolution (2002).p.62

Antonia Fraser, Marie-Antoinette: the journey (2002) p.464-467.

Appendix 1 - Route of the Revolutionaries as reconstructed by Lenotre (note, p.53-4)
From La Force they proceeded first to the Temple by the Rue des Franc-Bourgeois, Rue du Chaume and Rue de la Corderie. To reach the Hotel de Toulouse (Bank of France) they certainly followed the boulevards as far as the Porte Saint-Denis, since they went through the Rue de Clery.  Moreover, we know that at the Temple they expressed their intention of going to the Palais Royal; they must therefore have approached the Tuileries by way of the Passage du Perron, the garden of the Palais Royal, and the Carrousel.   The main artery of Paris, the streets of Saint-Honore, La Ferrronnerie, La Verrerie and Le Roi de Sicile, led them to the Rue des Ballets opposite to La Force.  Then, by the streets of Saint-Antoine, La Tixeranderie and La Coutellerie, they went to the Chatelet, in the intention,probably, of ridding themselves of the corpse by depositing it in the Morgue.  But the Morgue ws closed and they threw the body into a building yard.  Finally they returned with the head to La Force where the Duc de Penthievre's emissaries succeeded in wresting this last trophy from them.


Supposed eye-witness account published in 1843.  
She received a sabre blow behind her head which took off her cap.  Her long hair fell onto her shoulders.  Another sabre blow hit her eye; blood gushed out; her dress was stained with it.  She tried to fall down, to let herself die, but they forced her to get up again, to walk over corpses, and the crowd, silent, watched the slaughter.  She fell again.  A certain Charlat knocked her senseless with a club, and as she seemed lifeless, they attacked her perhaps still-living body relentlessly.  Pierced through by sabre and pike blows, she was no more than a shapeless thing, red with blood, unrecognisable....Quoted in  Antoine De Baecque, Glory and Terror: seven deaths under the French Revolution (2002).p.60:

Letter of the comte de Fersen relaying rumours of her torture and mutilation:
The princesse de Lamballe was most fearfully tortured for four hours.  My pen jibs at giving details; they tore off her breasts with their teeth and then did all possible for two whole hours to force her back to consciousness to make her death the more agonising.
 Axel von Fersen to the Duke of Södermanland, Regent of Sweden, 19th September 1792.

Supposed eye-witness account of Rétif de la Bretonne
I saw a woman appear who was as pale as her linen, held up by a counter clerk.  They made her climb up onto a heap of corpses.  They told her over and over to cry, Long live the Nation! She refused.  Then a killer seized her, tore off her dress, and opened her stomach.  She fell and was finished off by the others.  Never was a similar horror offered to my imagination.   I wanted to flee.  My legs weakened.  I fainted...When I came to myself, I saw the bleeding head.  I was told that they had had it washed at a wig maker's, curled, made up, put on the end of a lance to present it to the Temple.  This ill-fated woman was Madame de Lamballe.
Rétif de la Bretonne, Vingt nuits à Paris (1794) Quoted by Antoine De Baecque, p.79

Documents from: 
G. Lenotre, The last days of Marie-Antoinette (English version 1907):

1. Account by the municipal commissioner Charles Goret:
'The news came that the Princesse de Lamballe had just fallen a victim, and that some madmen were on their way to the Temple carrying the Princess's head at the end of a pike. The Council shuddered, but were silent.  One of their members, an artist called Daujon, was at the Temple, and saw this frantic mob approaching. He went to meet them, but could not prevent them from approaching the building beside the Tower, where the King and his family were confined. The windows of this building were not barred, and were only fifteen or sixteen feet above the ground. The crowd were shouting at the top of their voices.  Daujon, wearing his scarf, quickly jumped upon a heap of stones that happened to be below the window, and began to harangue the crowd in such a way that he managed to restrain them.  Daujon followed them to the door leading out of the Temple, and, having hastily procured a tricoloured ribbon, he hung it, as soon as they had passed through, before the door of the Temple, which he left open. " Cross that barrier if you dare! " he said to the retreating mob. 

When Daujon next went on duty as the King's warder, the latter said to him : ' You saved our lives, and we than
k you. You said nothing more than was necessary in such circumstances.(Lenotre,   p.34)

2. Testimony of the municipal Commissioner Daujon, reproduced from ms in the possession of Victor Sardou: Daujon, who was an artist and sculptor, was imprisoned by 9th Thermidor as a suspect.  He later  served as national commissioner in the municipality of Paris under Bonaparte.: Lenotre is unsympathetic towards the moral dilemma faced by Revolutionary officials: "This narrative of Daujon's is perhaps the saddest of all...showing us the authorities compounding with the murderers and bowing before their threats" (p.xxviii) 
On the following day, the 3rd September, we learnt that there had been a riot in the prisons. Shortly afterwards we heard that some people connected with the Court had been massacred. 

Finally, at about one o'clock we were informed of the death of the Princesse de Lamballe, whose head, it was said, was being brought to the Temple, that Marie Antoinette might be made to kiss it. Afterwards they were both to be dragged through the streets of Paris. 

In the name of the Council of the Temple I wrote both to the General Council of the Commune and to the president of the Legislative Assembly, to inform them of the danger threatening the hostages confided to our care. We begged each of these two bodies to send us six commissioners chosen from those of their own members who were most popular with the mob, assuring them, in any event, of our entire devotion to our duty. 

In the meantime a mounted orderly, despatched to reconnoitre, informed us that an immense crowd was approaching the Temple, carrying the Lamballe’s head and dragging her body with them ; that they were demanding Marie Antoinette, and that in less than five minutes they would reach the Temple. 

Two commissioners were instantly despatched to meet them, to find out their intentions, and to fraternise with them ostensibly if circumstances demanded it. Above all they were to secure the man who was carrying the head, for it was certain that he would lead the mob, and if he could be guided according to our wishes the crowd would be more easily restrained. 

Two other commissioners were despatched into the neighbouring districts, to impress upon those who seemed most excited that if they were to commit so abominable and useless a crime, Paris could never be cleansed from the stain of it. These commissioners were reinforced by several good citizens, who promised us to employ every effort to bring the most obstinate to reason. 

The clamour increased, and our difficulties with it. The officer on duty asked us for orders, adding that he had four hundred well-armed men for whom he could answer, but that he would take no responsibility. We told him that our intention was to employ force only as a last resource for the protection of life ; that it was our duty first to make use of persuasion ; and that his business, therefore, was to see to the security of his arms, etc. He made his arrangements accordingly.

In the street the throng was already prodigious. We had both sides of the great gate opened, in order that those outside might be pacified by seeing our peaceable intentions, of which further evidence was supplied by a portion of the National Guard, who stood unarmed in a double line from the outside entrance to the inner door. Nonetheless, all the arms, doors, and passages were well guarded in case of a surprise. 

We heard prolonged and violent shouting, and then at last they came ! A tricoloured sash, hastily hung in front of the main entrance, was the only rampart that the magistrate consented to raise in opposition to the torrent, which seemed really uncontrollable. A chair was placed behind the tricolour ; I climbed upon it, and waited. Soon the bloodthirsty horde appeared. 

At the sight of the honoured symbol the murderous frenzy in the heart of these men, drunk with blood and wine, seemed to yield to a feeling of respect for the national badge. Everyone tried with all his strength to prevent the violation of the sacred barrier; to touch it would have seemed to them a crime. They were anxious to appear right-minded, and actually believed themselves to be so ; for public opinion, which constitutes the moral law of the people, has an unbounded influence over such men as these, who bow down before it even while they are outraging it.

Two men were dragging along a naked, headless corpse by the legs. The back was on the ground; in front the body was ripped open from end to end. They came to a standstill before my tottering rostrum, at the foot of which they laid out this corpse in state, arranging the limbs with great particularity, and with a degree of cold-blooded callousness that might give a thoughtful man food for much meditation

On my right, at the end of a pike, was a head that frequently touched my face, owing to the gesticulations of the man that carried it. On my left a still more horrible wretch was with one hand holding the entrails of the victim against my breast, while he grasped a great knife with the other. Behind them a huge coal-heaver held suspended at the end of a pike, just above my forehead, a fragment of linen drenched with blood and mire. 

As they appeared on the scene I extended my right arm, and there I stood, absolutely motionless, waiting for silence. I obtained it.

I told them that the municipal body chosen by themselves had been entrusted by the National Assembly with a charge for which they, the Commune, were responsible not only to the Assembly but also to the whole of France, having sworn to deliver it up in the state in which they had received it. 

I told them that when we heard the people had designs on the life of the prisoners we refused to oppose them by force of arms ; we had rejected the idea with horror, being persuaded that if just arguments were once laid before a Frenchman he would not fail to listen to them. I made them see how impolitic it would be to deprive ourselves of such valuable hostages at the very moment when the enemy was in possession of our frontiers. And on the other hand, would it not be a proof of the prisoners'  innocence if we did not dare to bring them to trial? How much more worthy is it of a great people, I added, to condemn a King, guilty of treason, to death upon the scaffold! This salutary example, while it strikes well-justified terror into the hearts of tyrants, will inspire the peoples of the world with a devout respect for our nation, etc. ... I ended by entreating them to resist the counsels of a few ill-disposed persons who wished to drive the men of Paris into behaving with violence in order afterwards to poison the minds of their provincial brethren against them ; and then, to show them the confidence of the Council in their good intentions, I told them it had been decreed that six of them should be admitted to march round the garden, with the commissioners at their head. 

Instantly the barrier was removed and about a dozen men entered, bearing their spoils. These we led towards the Tower, and were able to keep them fairly in check till they were joined by the workmen, after which it was more difficult to restrain them. Some voices demanded that Marie Antoinette should come to the window, whereupon others declared that if she did not show herself we must go upstairs, and make her kiss the head. We flung ourselves before these maniacs, swearing they should only carry out their horrible design after passing over the bodies of their municipal officers. One of the wretches declared I was taking the part of the tyrant, and turned upon me with his pike so furiously that I should certainly have fallen under his blows if I had shown any weakness, or if another man had not opposed him, pointing out that in my place he would be obliged to act as I did. My air of unconcern impressed him, and when we went out he was the first to embrace me, and call me a fine fellow. 

In the meantime, two commissioners had thrown themselves in front of the first inner door of the Tower, and prepared to defend the approaches with devoted courage ; whereupon the others, seeing that they could not win us over, broke into horrible imprecations, pouring out the most disgusting obscenities, mingled with fearful yells. This was the final gust of the storm, and we waited for it to blow over. Fearing, however, lest the scene should lead to some climax worthy of the actors, I decided to make them another speech. But what could I say ? How could I find the way to such degraded hearts ? I attracted their attention by gestures; they looked at me, and listened. I praised their courage and their exploits, and made heroes of them; then, seeing they were calming down, I gradually mingled reproach with praise. I told them the trophies they were carrying were common property. "By what right”, I added, "do you alone enjoy the fruits of your victory ? Do they not belong to the whole of Paris ? Night is coming on. Do not delay, then, to leave these precincts, which are so much too narrow for your glory. It is in the Palais Royal, or in the garden of the Tuileries, where the sovereignty of the people has so often been trodden under foot, that you should plant this trophy as an everlasting memorial of the victory you have just won."

" To the Palais Royal!” they cried; and I knew my ridiculous harangue had won their approval. They left the place ; but first nauseated us with their horrible embraces, redolent of blood and wine 

In the meantime the Legislative Assembly sent us the six commissioners for whom we asked. They learnt with pleasure that the rumours that had been already spread were false, and in the name of the legislative body expressed their satisfaction with the way we had behaved.

Hardly had the commissioners departed when Petion, the mayor, arrived. He appeared to be in a desperate state because we had allowed Marie Antoinette to be made to kiss the Lamballe's head. "No magistrate," he said, “should have permitted anything so horrible." He was delighted to hear, not only that no one had entered the Tower, but that the commissioners who were with the prisoners had not even allowed them to approach the windows to find out the cause of the noise in the garden, but had made them go at once into another room at the back. 

Santerre, the commandant-general, also came to the Temple."

(Lenotre,  p.43-9)

3. Account of efforts of three servants, charged by the duc de Penthièvre's agent (Pierre Manuel?).to recover the remains of the Princess.
From the Memoirs of Joseph Weber (in fact written largely by Gérard de Lally-Tollendal)
The Princess de Lamballe had escaped on the 2nd, and they were beginning to hope, when on the 3rd they were informed that the massacres were being renewed. Finally M. de .......... was told that the villains had put an end to the life of the Queen's friend and seemed resolved to glut their infernal rage upon her still quivering remains. 
It was then that these three faithful servants, over-coming the horror with which the cannibals inspired them, joined them in the hope of securing the unhappy woman’s body. The cannibals wished first to carry it to the Hôtel de Toulouse. Someone warned the prince’s retainers, who shuddered at the bare idea, but nevertheless, did not wish to oppose it. They opened all the entrances, and tremblingly awaited the horrible procession. They were already in the Rue de Cléry when a man, touched by the horror that the prince’s household must surely feel if this dreadful spectacle were thrust upon them, went up to Charlat, who was carrying the head, and asked him where he was going. 
" To make this______ kiss her fine furniture.” 
“But you are making a mistake. This is not her house : she does not live here any longer, but at the Hôtel de Louvois or the Tuileries.”

And it was quite true that the princess had some stables in the Rue de Richelieu, and some rooms in the palace, though this did not alter the fact that her real home was in the Hôtel de Toulouse. But happily the brigands believed this good-hearted man, who thus saved the prince's faithful servants from a deeply painful experience. The horde of savages, then, did not stop at the hotel, but went to the Tuileries. They were not allowed to enter the palace, however. Then they returned to the corner of the Rue des Ballets, in the Faubourg [rue?]Saint-Antoine , opposite the notary's house, and went into a tavern, where there seemed some hope of robbing them of the mutilated body; but they seized it again and flung it on a heap of corpses near the Châtelet.  The emissaries of M. le Duc de Penthièvre imagined that they could easily find it there again, and turned all their attention to securing the head. 

It was still adorned by her beautiful hair, when the monsters came to a fresh decision: namely, to make the wretched woman look once more upon the scenes in which she would no longer move - for in their horrible delirium they thought the senseless remains of their victim were still conscious of their outrages. At the very moment that the head passed under the door of La Force, a hairdresser sprang forward and, with the most astonishing dexterity, cut off the hair. 
" The emissaries of M. le Duc de Penthièvre were much distressed by this, for they knew the prince would have especially desired to keep the princess's hair; but they became only the more anxious to get possession of what was left, and after having reduced Charlat's mind to a state of complete confusion they persuaded him to leave the pike at the door of a tavern, into which two of them accompanied him. It is said that the man P. [Pointel] took advantage of that moment to drag the head from the iron that pierced it and to wrap it in a napkin with which he had provided himself on purpose. He summoned his comrades and went with them to the Popincourt section where he declared that he had, wrapped in the napkin, a head that he wished to deposit in the cemetery of the Quinze-Vingts, and that he would come next day with two others of his comrades to take it away, and would give a hundred crowns in silver to the poor of the section, 

They reported to M. de______what they had done,and he advised them to go to the section very early the next morning, and made arrangements elsewhere for the recovery of the body. It was in a half-ruined house that the remains of the unhappy victims had been laid.  M. de______ spared neither trouble nor money in his efforts to find those of Madame de Lamballe, but without success. In the meantime M. de______, seeing that his emissaries had not returned, was beginning to suspect their good faith, for he had handed over to them all the money they asked for, when he was told that the three men had been arrested on the charge of murdering Madame de Lamballe. 

M. de_____ hastened to the section without delay and testified to the truth so persistently that the commissioners of the section not only set the prince’s servants at liberty, but authorised M. de ______to take away Madame de Lamballe’s head. He went to the cemetery at Quinze-Vingts with a plumber, placed in a leaden box all of the precious remains that had been rescued, and despatched them to Dreux, where they were deposited in the same vault that was to receive the body of M. de Penthièvre.
 Lenotre, p.53-55)

4. Extract from the Original Minutes of the Quinze-Vingts Section. 

" In the year 1792, the first of liberty and equality, on the 3rd of September, there came before the Permanent Committee of the Section of the Quinze-Vingts the Sieurs Jacques-Charles Hervelin, drummer of the gunners of the Section des Halles, formerly the battalion of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie, residing at No. 3, Rue de la Savonnerie, opposite the little Rue d’Avignon, at the sign of the Cadran Bleu; Jean-Gabriel Queruelle, cabinet-maker in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, at the corner of the Rue Saint-Nicolas, in Bouneau’s house; Antoine Pouquet, gunner in the Montreuil Section, living at No.25, Rue de Charonne, in the house of Sieur Vicq; Pierre Ferré, stationer at No. 89, Rue Popincourt;  bearers of the body of the ci-devant Princess Lamballe, who had just been killed in the Hôtel  de la Force and whose head had been carried by some other persons through the open streets at the end of a pike. 

They informed us that they had found the following articles in her garments:  A small book with gilt-edged pages, bound in red morocco and entitled The Imitation of Jesus Christ, a pocket-book of red morocco, a case containing eighteen national assignats of five livres each, a gold ring set with a moveable blue stone, beneath which was some fair hair tied in a true-lover’s knot, with these words above it: It was blanched by sorrow; a piece of the root called racine d’Angleterre, a littie ivory penholder with a gold pen and two little circles of gold, a little knife with two blades and a tortoiseshell-and-silver handle; a corkscrew of English steel, a little pair of pincers in English steel for pulling out hairs, a small sheet of ordinary cardboard with a picture bearing some indecipherable words, a list of linen and other garments on a piece of paper, two little glass bottles with gold tops, one containing ink and the other some wafers of various colours, and a sort of picture with a design on both sides of it, representing on one side a flaming heart wreathed with thorns and pierced with a dagger, with this legend below: Cor Jesu, salva nos, perimus, and on the other a flaming heart pierced with a dagger, embroidered all round with blue silk - all of which we examined in the presence of the above-named and undersigned, to whom we returned all the articles as they desired, to be taken by them and delivered over to the National Assembly, in accordance with their promise and assurance; in acknowledgment of which they gave us a receipt and signed their names together with us, commissioners and registrar, Caumont, Borie, Savard, commissioners; Renet registrar. 

And on the same day, at seven o’clock in the evening, Citizen Jacques Pointel, residing in the section of the Haymarket, No. 69, Rue des Petits-Champs, appeared before the Committee of the Quinze-Vingts section, asking us to use our authority in the matter of burying the ci-devant Princesse de Lamballe’s head, which he had just succeeded in securing. Since we could but applaud the patriotism and humanity of the said citizen, we, the undersigned commissioners, instantly proceeded to the Foundlings’ Cemetery, and there had the head buried, and drew up the present report of the said burial, in order to promote the truth and make sure of the facts at the time. 

Delesquelle and Savard, commissioners; Pointel, Renet, secretaries.

(Lenotre,  p.55-57)

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