I’m ashamed to admit that not once during the time I visited Marie Antoinette’s childhood summer palace Schonbrunn in Vienna, her royal residence Versailles, or her prison cell chamber in the Conciergerie did I think about the person responsible for creating her famous hairstyles! “Marie Antoinette’s Head” focused on the creator of those famous poufs, a man who is largely unknown. Leonard Alexis Autie was a man determined to be a star. Arriving in Paris virtually penniless, his knack for creating insanely opulent and original hairstyles quickly made him a celebrity hairstylist. The book focuses on Leonard’s role in creating Marie Antoinette’s famous style and also provides a biography of her life that reads very quickly.
It was especially interesting to see how Leonard influenced Marie Antoinette’s changing hairstyles to ensure he continued to have a job. Bashor attributes the change from the large pouf hairstyles to the coiffure a l’enfant to such a desire. Leonard was also evidentially so trusted that Marie Antoinette asked him to retrieve jewelry and other items from her Petit Trianon after she was imprisoned during the French Revolution. What I loved about this book was the clever writing, which made this an intriguing topic and interesting read. Bashor’s passionate writing brought what could have been a flat biography to life! His word choice provides enough connection to the late 1770s without being overdone. The paintings depicting the artistry of Marie Antoinette’s different hairstyles was a great inclusion, and I also enjoyed the pictures of various other characters, especially Leonard. My only complaint with the book was the tiny font in which it was written.
This was a great read for a Francophile like myself!