The Vanity and Entombment of Marie Antoinette


  • Heather Peterson Woodbury University



Interior, Interior architecture, Spatial design


In his fifteenth century treatise on building, De re aedificatoria, Leon Battista Alberti argued for the expansion of architectural purview through the inclusion of objects such as sundials and dovecotes on the grounds that the former marks and fundamentally registers human beings in time and space, while the latter acknowledges the possibility of constructed environments for other species.

The long march of coincidence that denoted the inimitable life of Marie Antoinette has provided cover for leveraging subjects that have not yet been mined as architecture; much less as possibilities for critical exploration. The Vanity and Entombment of Marie Antoinette attempts to goad the limits of critical spatial inquiry by examining a series of salient artefacts from the queen’s monarchical life: the guillotine as incontrovertible threshold, cleaving life from death, mind from body, thought from matter; the carriage, which widened the experience of the world past the limits of human physiology, and placed architecture on the move; curtains and crinolines, those soft precincts between body and berth, which beg the question, ‘Is there architecture in the occupation of a material condition, however tight the stays of the corset may be?’

The Vanity is a conceptual project imagined for the Hall of Mirrors; an object that is indeterminately a diminutive architecture, occupiable furniture, and a sculptural deviation made to house the remains of Marie Antoinette and her lost wedding trousseau.

The essay that follows is a fictional test of The Vanity’s measure – of its elasticity as a demarcation of narrative and milieu.


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Author Biography

Heather Peterson, Woodbury University

Heather Peterson is a designer,artist,andAssistant Professor of InteriorArchitecture atWoodbury University. She holds a MArch from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Since 1998 she has maintained a studio practice in art, architecture, design, and critical writing. Recent work includes proposals for a pair of porcelain cabins, a series of articulated ceilings, a glass confessional, and an imaginative reconstruction of Goya’s Quinta del Sordo. She was recently awarded the juror’s choice in issue 85 of New American Paintings. In 2007 she was selected to join the viewing program atThe Drawing Center in New York; and has won a number of awards including a Rhode Island State Council of the Arts fellowship in writing, the European Honors Program fellowship in painting, and a faculty development grant from the Boston Architectural Center. Peterson has taught fine art, design and architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Boston Architectural Center, and California State University Long Beach.




How to Cite

Peterson, Heather. 2013. “The Vanity and Entombment of Marie Antoinette”. Idea Journal 13 (1):6-19.



Visual Essay