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The White Dress: Masterpiece in Focus

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

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Scandalous when they first appeared, simple white muslin dresses — worn without stays or hoops — were famously popularized by Marie Antoinette and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. Complementing the Gallery’s major summer retrospective on Vigée Le Brun, this ‘Masterpiece in Focus’ exhibition showcases two magnificent portraits from the national collection: one by French artist Anne-Louis Girodet; the other by Scottish artist Henry Raeburn. More than a record of fashion and style, the two portraits say a great deal about social position, the politics of clothing, and a new interest in luxury goods as trade expanded. Rounding out the exhibition are period dresses on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum and a private collector.