In Nantes, ornaments and paintings in dialogue



From a golden dress of the court of Versailles to the red coat of the representatives of the people… This exhibition immerses us in the XVIIIe century through the incessant dialogue between fashion and painting. Born from exchanges between two curators of the Nantes Arts Museum and the Galliera Palace, the City of Paris Fashion Museum, it brings together more than 200 objects (paintings, costumes, fabrics, accessories, etc.), from major museums in the textiles and fine arts, including the Palace of Versailles. Its sober and elegant scenography, reminiscent of the world of theater, underscores the extent to which the art of appearing is intimately linked to social roles.

→ MAINTENANCE. “From the 17th century, French fashion set the tone”

At the court of Versailles, clothing was a sign of belonging to a caste, such as this very gold-plated dress worn by Sophie de France, one of Louis XV’s daughters, painted by Jean-Marc Nattier. “He painted the faces in front of their model but made the clothes in his workshop”, says Adeline Collange Perugi, curator at the Nantes Art Museum and scientific curator of the exhibition. “So it’s possible that this dress never existed. “ Especially since these luxurious fabrics represented“A sumptuary expense, well before food or decoration”.

Fashion prints

The new financial aristocracy also seeks to distinguish itself by its adornments, fueling an acceleration of fashion phenomena. Evidenced by this portrait of the widow of the banker Crozat, the first fortune in France, in a white satin dress enhanced with golden lace.

The second half of the XVIIIe century also saw the emergence of the figure of the fashion seller, who offered ribbons, lace and accessories to enhance outfits. The most famous of them, Rose Bertin, whose advice Marie-Antoinette carefully followed, strangely recalls the “influencers” of our time. The women’s press also took off in this context, spreading fashion prints to all European countries.

Painters don’t just follow this movement and become fashion designers. They are the ones who design the superb patterns found on men’s dresses, suits and vests. Clothing is also found at the heart of the artists’ pictorial universe, from the gallant festivals of Antoine Watteau (disguises) to the pastoral scenes of François Boucher (dresses with ribbons).

In search of purity

Over the century, the notion of comfort made its appearance with the famous dressing gown, the prerogative of scientists and intellectuals like Diderot. Worn alone, the white shirt shakes up traditional codes and invites libertinism, as in this portrait of Abraham Fontanel, by the painter Joseph Duplessis.

The exhibition ends with a celebration of clothing from Antiquity, more refined and less ostentatious, which will go so far as to inspire revolutionaries for the coat of the first representatives of the people. Red in color, obviously.

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