Portrait of Marie Antoinette
Portrait of Marie Antoinette, Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, 1783. Palace of Versailles.

October 27, 2017 – January 6, 2019

I love you madly

They were young, beautiful and in love. They had power and influence over others, but could not determine their own lives. The exhibition I love you madly looked at Swedish Count Hans Axel von Fersen and his relationship with one of the world’s best-known women and Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.

At the center of the exhibition I love you madly stands the letters Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette sent to each other for several years – from 1778 to Marie’s last time in captivity while she was waiting for her execution. For a long time one thought that many of the letters were lost. But in the 1980s some showed up on an auction. They exist today in the French National Archives. Some were written with code or had overlining. Some have researcher lately succeeded to decipher – among other the letter wiht Marie’s declaration of love to Axel.

Love letters

Axel von Fersen writes his first letter to the Queen of France just after he has arrived in America in 1780. For most of his life he keeps a register of the letters he sends. This is currently in the Swedish National Archives. Between the years 1783 and 1791, six letters can be found to the Queen of France. During the same period he writes 54 letters to someone by the name of “Joséphine”. The letters to Joséphine appear in the register when he has left Versailles and are notable by their absence as soon as he returns. They are, of course, to Marie Antoinette, whose third name was Josepha.

I förgrunden visas en skyltdocka med en av pappersdräkterna och i bakgrunden visas fyra olika skyltdockor med dräkter  i en glasmonter

”I love you to insanity and I never cease to worship you even for a moment

Marie Antoinette in a letter to Axel von Fersen

Maria Antoinette's writing case

Visitors could explore a writing case in lacquer and two-tone gold with case in green-colored lizard leather. The case belonged to Marie Antoinette. Magnus Brahe bought it during a trip to Paris and it is now part of the collections at Skokloster's castle. The following note is on a note accompanying the case: "This Chinese writing case has belonged to the unfortunate Queen of France, Marie Antoinette."

Today's digital way to communicate

The exhibition also drew parallels to today's digital communication – how would Axel von Fersen and the French Queen have sent their secret love greetings to each other if they were alive today? And how would the misguided hatred that led to their death have manifested itself?

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