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Abstract

How can students arrive at a closer understanding of the material culture that shaped the lives of the French aristocracy and nascent bourgeoisie of late eighteenth-century France? This is one of the challenges that students face in the first-year seminar, Re-Membering Marie Antoinette, as they study the multiple and conflicting ways that Marie Antoinette was and has been represented in biographies, portraits, memoirs, fiction, film, fashion, plays and pornographic pamphlets, records of her trial in 1793, and the spaces and activies that shaped her daily life. This article focuses on a series of scaffolded assignments that lead students to imagine what Marie Antoinette’s daily life might have been like by exploring the material culture of the period through the objects, decor, and activities depicted in Moreau le Jeune’s series of engravings, Le Monument du Costume, and the craftsmanship, labor, and social practices they entail as described in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie.

Keywords

Marie Antoinette, Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune, Monument du Costume, l’Encyclopédie, Versailles, eighteenth-century French fashion, style Louis XVI