Mary Queen of Scots
(Antoinette Cécile Hortense, Mme Haudebourt Lescot)


Antoinette Haudebourt-Lescot , one of the most successful of women artists painting in the 1820s and 1830s,[1] chose an incident probably inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s The Abbot. This vividly depicted the enmity between Mary Queen of Scots and Margaret Erskine, Lady Lochleven, the mother of James Stuart, Earl of Moray (cat. 34 fig. 136). The artist has taken narrative liberties by combining two separate scenes surrounding Mary’s forced abdication, so as to show both the unpleasant behavior of Lady Lochleven as well as Mary’s emotional response which actually occurred later. Haudebourt-Lescot ‘s highly finished watercolor technique is well suited to the depiction of the varieties of historic costume which the artist clearly enjoyed. While Haudebourt-Lescot was certainly familiar with the historical genre scenes of the troubadour painters,[2] this watercolor shows a greater affinity for an artist such as Bonington who also found inspiration in the writings of Scott . This work cannot be fully comprehensible without a considerable knowledge about the previous violent histories of both Mary and Lady Lochleven , compounded of murder, abduction, rape, and imprisonment.

Mary Stuart had been born in 1542 to James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. Her youth in France culminated in her marriage in 1558 to the dauphin François, who became King a year later. But after the death of her husband in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland, where her religion and her rule were resisted with increasing violence. In 1566, the musician Rizzio was murdered before her eyes by a group which included her second husband Henry Darnley , and she herself was placed under house arrest. Darnley was murdered in 1567 by men directed by James Hepburn, the earl of Bothwell , who was tried but acquitted. A group of Protestant lords enjoined Mary to marry him; soon afterward Bothwell abducted her, and raped her, so that their marriage would be assured. They were married on May 15th, 1567, only three months after the death of Darnley . But almost immediately, public opinion turned against her, and the same lords who had insisted on her marriage now insisted that she abandon Bothwell . They signed a warrant for her imprisonment on June 16th. She was brought to Lochleven castle, and threatened with murder if she did not sign an act of abdication. In July, she miscarried twins. Her infant son James was crowned King, and in August her half-brother, James Stuart, was proclaimed Regent. Mary escaped from Lochleven on May 2nd, 1568, repudiated her act of abdication, and traveled into England, expecting help from Elizabeth, her relation (cousin to her own father James V) and her fellow Queen. But she was kept under guard, and then condemned to captivity. She was imprisoned for 19 years in a series of English castles, and decapitated in 1587.

The costume in Haudebourt-Lescot ‘s Mary Queen of Scots . The wide standing ruff, jeweled stomacher and elaborately padded and decorated sleeves were styles of the late sixteenth-century French court which Mary Queen of Scots had not lived to see, but which the Duchess of Berry adapted for the costume she wore at her Quadrille de Marie Stuart, one of the most famous fancy-dress balls of the Restoration.

Marie-Caroline, Duchess of Berry , was the undisputed leader of feminine fashion during the Restoration, whose taste in dress was avidly reported in the pages of Le journal des dames et des modes. Like the Empress Josephine and Queen Hortense , she was also an enthusiastic patron of genre historique painting, an interest which was reinforced by her love of the theater and fancy-dress balls.[3] The theme of the Quadrille, held on March 2, 1829, was an incident in the life of Mary Queen of Scots , when as Marie Stuart, the Queen Consort of François II (1559-1560), she received a visit from her mother, Marie de Lorraine, Queen of Scots. The Duchess of Berry herself played the leading role, and she selected the roles to be played by her guests.[4] In the design and execution of their elaborate costumes, no expense was spared.[5] The results of their efforts can be seen in a page from Eugène Lami’s commemorative lithographic album (fig. 158), commissioned by the Duchess to distribute to her guests.[6]

The Duchess of Berry’s own costume for the Quadrille de Marie Stuart illustrates the complex relationships that linked fashion, fancy-dress, theatrical costume and the costume in genre historique paintings. It was based upon a portrait thought to depict Mary Queen of Scots at the time of her marriage to François II. The sitter has since been identified as Louise-Marguerite de Lorraine, Princess of Conti , a member of the court of Henry IV.[7] Although the Duchess’ choice of an anachronistic model for the costume was inadvertent, it was also understandable. The wide, square neckline, standing ruff and pointed waistline seen in the portrait were features of contemporary fashion which probably appealed to her. Above all, the Princess of Conti’s full, padded sleeves tapering to the wrist, so closely resembling the gigot sleeves which the Duchess de Berry particularly favored,[8] must have made the portrait seem like the ideal source. Her costume for the ball also bore a striking resemblance to a theatrical costume worn by another leader of Restoration fashion, the actress Mlle. Mars , in the role of the Duchess of Guise in Alexandre Dumas’ Henri III et sa cour (1829),[9] as well as to the Queen’s costume in Haudebourt-Lescot’s Mary Queen of Scots , Auguste Garneray and Louis-Marie Lanté. Many of the guests, however, as they had done on previous occasions for the same purpose, went directly to the Bibliothèque Royale’s Cabinet des Estampes accompanied by their tailors and dressmakers, in search of historically accurate yet flattering costumes. Bouchot, Le Luxe Français: La Restauration, pp. 84-85. For likely sources for the Quadrille costumes, see Francoise Waquet, Les Fêtes Royales sous la Restauration ou l’Ancien Régime Retrouvé, Geneva: Droz, 1981, p. 66.

[6] Henri Bouchot, Le luxe francais: La Restauration, Paris: À la Librairie Illustrée, 189, pp. 97-98.

[7] Bouchot, op. cit.. pp. 85-86. In spite of her efforts, however, the costume was not deemed a success by all. For some of the negative commentary see Blanche-Joséphine Le Bascle d’Argenteuil, Duchess of Maillé, Souvenirs des Deux Restorations, Paris: Librairie Académique Perrin, 1984, pp. 267-269 and Waquet, op. cit., p. 67.

[8] Boucher, op. cit. p. 366.

[9] This costume, included in Martinet’s Petite Galerie dramatique, Paris: Martinet 1796-1843, is illustrated in Francois Ambrière, Mademoiselle Mars et Marie Dorval au Théâtre et dans la Vie, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1992, n.p.

21 1/2 x 16 inches (54.3 x 40.7 cm)
Watercolour on paper

Exhibited: Paris, Salon of 1837, no. 362; New Orleans Museum of Art, New York Stair Sainty Matthiesen, Cincinnati Taft Museum of Art, Romance and Chivalry: Literature and History reflected in early nineteenth century painting, June 1996 – February 1997, n

Where is It?
Stair Sainty Matthiesen Inc., NY
Historical Period
Neoclassicism - 1780-1820 & Romanticism - 1810-1870
Historical events
1996-Romance and Chivalry: History and Literature reflected in Early Nineteenth Century French Painting.
Hardback book. 300 pages, fully illustrated with 90 colour plates and 100 black and white illustrations. Introduction (40 pages) by Guy Stair Sainty, twelve essays, catalogue, appendix of salons 1801-24 and bibliography. £50 or $80 inc. p.& p.

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Price band
$5,000 - $50,000