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Marie-Antoinette's court gown to be displayed at ROM
Sep '08
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) will delve into its vast storerooms to bring notable and rarely-seen objects on view for a limited time through a new exhibition series entitled Out of the Vaults. The Museum launches this series with the striking feathered war bonnet of Chief Sitting Bull and other iconic artifacts attributed to him, including ceremonial moccasins and warshirt.

These objects, last exhibited more than 30 years ago, will be on view in the Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples beginning Saturday, September 13, 2008. ROM visitors will have a special opportunity to view an original court gown of the French Queen Marie-Antoinette, one of the most influential style icons of the 18th century. This exquisite piece will be on display in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume on Saturday, October 11, 2008 for two weeks only and in advance of its requested loan to the palace of Versailles in 2009.

“This series offers visitors a rare opportunity to view some of our most significant artifacts,” said William Thorsell, Director and CEO of the ROM. “Out of the Vaults allows objects too fragile for constant display to be exhibited for a limited time.”

Sitting Bull's headdress and associated artifacts:
Dating to approximately 1875, the war bonnet of Sitting Bull, leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux and significant figure in North American and First Nations history, is made of immature golden eagle tail feathers attached to hide skull cap. Featuring a handsome beaded brow band and fringe of weasel skin, its storage case is beautifully made of painted buffalo hide.

It is believed that Sitting Bull presented the headdress and case to his most trusted ally, North-West Mounted Police Superintendent, Major James Morrow Walsh. The set was donated to the ROM in 1915 by Canadian Pacific Railway President, Sir William Van Horne. To the Lakota, the war bonnet embodies sacred powers, while representing its owner's war achievements. The feathers reference the eagle which carries prayers to the Creator, while the form of the headdress' radiating feathers is a visual metaphor for the sun.

Marie-Antoinette's court gown:
This formal court dress comprises a fitted bodice with attached train and matching petticoat of silk satin made in the fashionable style of the 1780s. It demonstrates the height of the 18th century professional embroiders' art as seen in the lavish, artistic design which combines plant and flower, peacock and pheasant feather motifs on pale blue, pink and ivory satin appliquéd swags of ribbon and bows.

Further embellished with spangles, glass stones, pleated metallic strips and two types of metallic thread made from thin metal coil wrapped over a silk core, this is one of the few dresses attributed to Marie-Antoinette and her dressmaker, Marie-Jeanne “Rose” Bertin, that survive; often identified as the first couturière, Rose Bertin was Marie-Antoinette's favoured marchande de modes.

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