March 28, 2012
FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature two exquisite 18th-century French liturgical vestments, a chasuble and a dalmatic, from the Museums’ permanent collections. Unfortunately, these garments are not currently on view, but please enjoy this exclusive virtual viewing!
Religious clothing from 18th-century France is extraordinarily rare. When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, the ruling aristocracy and the French clergy were closely allied, thus much of their sumptuous liturgical attire was wantonly destroyed. It is possible that these two vestments were created for the royal chapel at Versailles, so the fact that they survived intact is downright miraculous.
Made of red velvet and lavishly embroidered in gold and polychrome silk, this chasuble is one of two matching dalmatics—long, wide-sleeved tunics—created toward the end of Louis XIV’s reign. Stylistically, the splendor and artistry of the ensemble date to the first decade of the 18th century, when the ponderous grandeur of Louis XIV and the French Baroque was giving way to the lighter, more graceful impulses that later evolved into the Rococo style.
The family responsible for preserving these exquisite textiles claims descent from the marquise de Rochelambert, a lady-in-waiting to Marie-Antoinette and Henri-Evard, marquis de Dreux-Brézé, grand master of ceremonies at the court of Louis XVI.