Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Irregular Beauty of the Princesse de Lamballe

Marie Thérèse Louise had one of those faces that were not considered to be dazzlingly beautiful but not without charm. The Baronne d'Oberkirch said of her that she was "very pretty but with irregular features".

One of her most winning features was undoubtedly her hair. Long, golden locks which fell in thick tresses around her remarkably long neck were admired by all around her. Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun noted that she had "the most beautiful blonde hair imaginable". During the revolution her hair kept her thickness. When she was brutally murdered a letter from Marie Antoinette was found concealed in her tresses. It says something that even when her head had been mounted on a pike, passers-by noticed how beautiful her locks were - although covered in blood. 

The princesse de Lamballe's complexion was almost unnaturally white - quite the fashionable trend at the time. At the same time her skin was clear of any pockmarks or even regular scars from acne. Her skin kept its youthful freshness during her twenties which often led people to believe that she was younger than she actually was.

Madame la princesse de Lamballe by Antoine-François Callet (circa 1776, Callet).jpg
Court portrait from 1776

She was not a tall woman but had a shapely figure which she moved with some elegance. However, the generally snarky Prince de Ligne thought that her hands were rather too large. Another feature that was considered somewhat out of the ordinary was her very long neck. This might have become an object of criticism at court if the princesse had not been endowed with a particular sense of grace.

Her nose was considered to be a little too long but her eyes were large and blue. Some described them as rather "expressionless" while others found them to portray pure innocence.
It was her mouth that greatly added to the opinion of an irregular beauty. Her mouth was small and - according to Raoul Arnaud - somewhat irregular; she rarely smiled which only further enhanced the almost mysterious expression that quite a few of her contemporaries ascribe to her.

With such pure features, the Savoyard princess looked rather strange in the full make-up of the French court. The heavy rouge contrasted greatly with her pearly white skin which caused her to look ill. Fortunately for Lamballe, during the 1780's Rousseau's ideal of "back to nature" led to a far simpler style being adopted by particularly Marie Antoinette. Thus, Marie Thérèse Louise looked her best when she strolled in the gardens of the Petit Trianon.
In contrast, the rosy cheeks resulting from a sledge-ride with Marie Antoinette only enhanced her beauty. During one of these excursion she was likened to spring itself since her rosy, youthful face peeped out through the heavy white furs she was covered in.

Billedresultat for princesse de lamballe portrait vigée le brun
Portrait by Vigée le Brun

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