Marie Antoinette’s last words were apparently “Pardon me Monsieur, I meant not to do it”. The Queen was not talking about her wrongs, but her unfortunate treading on the executioners foot on her way to put her pretty little neck under the Guillotine.
The Guillotine is a symbol of the French Revolution. Both men and women lost their lives to it and in total claimed approximately 16,500 necks during this reign of terror. The most famous, of course, our dear Marie Antoinette. Later into the revolution, a style named à la victime or “like the victim” became popular among the teenagers of the period. A ribbon, predominantly in blood red velvet was tied around the throat to sympathise with those whom had their head severed at this precise point. It was also popular to shear off ones tresses just as the executioner would have done to his soon-to-be victim.
This was a time of celebration – the old Government was out – the Revolution had succeeded! Vive La France! was cried throughout the streets. Parties reigned for both the alive and the dead. It is the latter party I am on the search for today in Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery. The party I am looking for? The dance of the Victims or, en Français, The Bal à la Victime. This Soirée was held in celebration of those who had died mercilessly at the swing of the Guillotine. Only the family members of the deceased were invited. They donned black arm bands and neckties – I am sure you have seen this tradition? In Australia it exists predominantly in sports culture – but nonetheless it is a sign of acknowledging someone dearly departed. The soirée’s were to celebrate life in such a bloody period; such was the French Revolution. It is an endearing subject I come across in history time and time again. We must celebrate the fact we are living for we know they shall end… hopefully not by Guillotine!
I used beautiful dried roses for this shoot, I recommend leaving for about 5 days before they reach this lovely point in their life.