I have been having a tough time settling down to working on one project (forget about finishing one) for several months now. I have started so many things and either discarded them or packed them in some tote to be worked on at some later date.
Speaking of totes – before one packs away a UFO (unfinished object) one must make room in a tote for said UFO. That’s what I was doing when I came across a box of doll parts of various descriptions. All the parts are bisque or ceramic, 2 are Bilo Baby repros ( 1 white and 1 black) and the other were parts for a large doll that I was told was a Madame du Barry doll.
My aunt had one of these dolls which she bodied and dressed and she was a beautiful elegant sophisticated looking Victorian-type doll.
I kept the box out and decided it might be a good time to work on these dolls; after all I have only been carrying them around since the 70’s! In the meantime I decided to do some investigating into Madame du Barry. I don’t know about you, but to my recollection I had not heard of her and could not place her importance in history – enough so as to have a doll made in her image.
To Google I went… Here’s her story:
Madame du Barry was born Jeanne Becu in 1743 in Lorraine France. She was the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress/cook/prostitute. At the age of 15 Jeanne had to find some sort of income to help her and her mother live so she traveled the dingy streets of Paris carrying a box full of trinkets for sale.
She later became employed as a companion to an elderly widow Madame de la Garde, but her extraordinary beauty began to meddle in the marital affairs of both la Garde’s two middle-aged sons so she was sent away. She became a milliner’s assistant in a haberdashery shop, and when that job didn’t pan out she began entertaining in Madame Quisnoy’s brothel-casino. While there, her remarkable beauty came to the attention of Jean-Baptiste du Barry, a high-class pimp/procurer. He installed her in his household and made her his mistress and helped establish Jeanne’s career as a courtesan in the highest circles of Parisian society.
She became an immediate sensation in Paris, building up a large aristocratic clientele, and King Louis XV became aware of her identity. Jeanne could not qualify as an official royal mistress unless she had a title, so on Sept 1, 1768, she married du Barry’s brother, comte Guillaume du Barry. The marriage ceremony included a false birth certificate created by Jean du Barry, making Jeanne younger by three years and of nobler descent.
She was installed below King Louis XV’s quarters and became his mistress. She had little interest in politics preferring instead to pass her time ordering ravishing gowns and expensive jewelry. She became increasingly unpopular with those surrounding the King because of the King’s financial extravagance towards her.
After Lois XV’s death she moved on to other affairs and in 1792 she was suspected of financially assisting émigrés who had fled the French Revolution. She was arrested and accused of treason and condemned to death.
On December 8, 1793 Madame du Barry was beheaded by guillotine. She is buried in the Madeleine Cemetery.
She inspired a wax figure at Madame Tussaud’s in London called The Sleeping Beauty, which is the oldest existing figure on display.
She was the subject of a musical by Cole Porter titled DuBarry Was a Lady. The 1943 movie version starred Lucille Ball and co-stared Red Skeleton and Gene Kelly.
Many early films portrayed her character and her life.
So I ask you, my readers… how should I dress my Madame du Barry doll… as a lady, or as a tramp? I can’t wait to see what you come up with! How about we take a vote - the majority wins!