Generally speaking wedding gowns are among the garments most frequently donated to museums, because of the symbolic and sentimental value set on them by their owners and the quality of the materials used. As a ceremonial union, the wedding is major social statement by two families and the prestige of the new alliance must be highlighted by a show of wealth and taste.
This dress was worn by Anne Debelle (1802–1887) for her marriage on 19 April 1823 to the son of a Marshal of the Empire, François Victor Masséna, Prince d'Essling and Duc de Rivoli (1799–1863). It is richly embellished with silk blondes de Caen lace, very much in vogue under the First Empire and until the 1830s. It was so fashionable that it gave rise to gauze imitations, but this is an example of the real thing, handmade by lacemakers from Normandy as a testimony to the ostentatious luxury of this princely union.
As is often the case with bridal gowns, this one blends the timelessness appropriate to the ceremony with details reflecting contemporary fashion: the dress's light colour is close to that of the white which, in the late 19th century, would become more common as a symbol of the bride's virginity, while the Neo-Renaissance bodice and sleeves reflect a major aspect of the taste of the period – the same taste echoed by the much appreciated 'Troubadour' paintings of the first three decades of the 19th century.
Notice's author : Alexandra Bosc