Dr. Todd Larkin, Art Historian at MSU School of Art will be speaking at the Museum of the Rockies on April 6th, 2016. His lecture, “What Ever Happened to the U.S. Congress’s Portraits of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette?” will take place from 6:00 – 7:00 pm in the Hager Auditorium and is free and open to the public.Allyn Cox, British Burn the Capitol, 1814. Mural in Capitol corridor, ca. 1972. Office of the Architect of the Capitol.
One of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American political culture is what became of the United States Congress’s state portraits of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette during British bombardment of the Capitol, Washington, D.C., on the night of 24-25 August 1814. Conceived by Benjamin Franklin, requested by the American delegates at the height of the War of Independence, and granted by the French king after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, these official full-length images of the French monarchs in ceremonial dress were recently identified as atelier copies after Antoine-François Callet’s Louis XVI and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s Marie-Antoinette (both 1783) and traced through Congress’s successive assembly rooms at New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington. However, their fate as casualties or spoils of war has been difficult to determine due to an incomplete documentary record. With the aid of the staff of the Architect of the Capitol’s Office and the National Archives, Washington, D.C., the Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Paris, Larkin has assembled the most comprehensive collection of period images, plans, letters, and documents to date in order to put to rest persisting speculations about the fate of Congress’s first and most splendid diplomatic gift.
Anon., Capture and Burning of Washington by the British, in 1814. Wood engraving from Richard Miller Devens, Our First Century, 1876. Library of Congress.
Todd Larkin is Associate Professor of 17th– to 19th-Century European and American Art and Coordinator of the Art History Graduate Program at Montana State University. His research to date has charted two directions: Queen Marie-Antoinette’s art patronage as a sign of political identity and trans-Atlantic cultural exchange during the Revolutionary era. Two and a half years ago, he conceived and organized the international scholarly conference Political Portraiture in the United States and France during the Revolutionary and Federal Eras ca. 1776-1814 at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., with the support of Terra, Luce, and Kress Foundations. He is currently editing the anthology of essays in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
For more information on the MOR or Dr. Larkin’s lecture, please visit Dr. Larkin at the MOR