Historical Figure - Fun Fact of the Marquis de Lafayette
Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roghe Gilburt du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757)
I became curious about the Marquis de Lafayette after getting hooked on the Hamilton soundtrack song Guns and Ships. It made me wonder who Lafayette really was and I starting looking into him shortly after learning all the words to the song, of course.
In doing the research for this illustration I found that he was a beloved hero in America but there was all kinds of possible scandal and gossip attempts surrounding him in France at the time. Young, very rich and part of affluent circles he was once laughed off the dance floor by none other than Marie Antoinette herself, who some say he may have had relations with. Heck he even named one of his daughters after her.
French revolutionists at the time, created adult themed propaganda illustrations of the two in attempts to smear their names, almost like modern day tabloids can do.
That got me to thinking about how he was this integral part of the American Revolution, never losing focus in his goals. Yet at the same time, that idea of her laughing him off the dance floor had to haunt him or maybe intrigue him in a flirtatious kind of way. And that was my jumping off point for this project.
Along with creating my mind map, I also pulled up all kind of reference images of Lafayette and a few of Marie Antoinette. This helps give me a better idea of appearance, style, fashion and so on.
Then I began working on some simple thumbnails using the mind map ideas and references as loose guides.
Out of all the thumbnails I took the three I liked the best and felt were the strongest and worked out a more detailed tonal sketch of each of them.
Marie Antoinette has iconic hair which was often styled with embellishments: flowers, figurines, etc. This became very popular among the women of France in the 1770's. The embellishments often were used to signal interests in a particular subject, politics or personal opinions.
In this option we see Lafayette in a 1970's disco hustle pose, but wearing his traditional attire with just a bit of a bell bottom flare to his pants. He could be interpreted as a figurine in her hair along with some roses and the American and French flags - which were to signify her support of Lafayette and the American Revolution (which was costly to France and would later factor into her demise).
The background would be filled with current American slang: LOL! HA! mixed with the French: Pete de Rire (or rolling on the floor laughing).
You could also see this and think "Lafayette" a campy 70's disco spoof of Hamilton
Lafayette was known to be so focused on his revolutionary goals. Surely he would have known he could not dance well but he was out there giving it his best try.
Was he determined to prove he could do it?
Was he struggling to try and fit into the affluent crowd of which he grew up?
Or was he oblivious to the whole thing happening because his mind was elsewhere?
Perhaps he just could not remember the steps 1,2,3..1,2,3...
Or maybe he was trying a little too hard to impress the girl?
In this option my focus was on what it might have felt like for Lafayette to have been laughed off the dance floor by Marie Antoinette.
Even though we think of him as this focus revolutionary hero, he was still a young man who had embarrassed himself in front of a girl and a room full of her friendss.
When someone is making fun of you, all you really hear is the taunting and the laughter. So I wanted to only see Marie's mouth with the graphic HA! HA! HA's! coming out of it.
And then I wanted to depict Lafayette as being small in comparison, because in that moment he would have been feeling quite small.
In the end Option 1 was selected and some suggestions were made on how to further enhance it by including just a hint of Marie's eyebrows/eyes to further clarify that is her hair we are looking at.
I worked up the more detailed tonal sketch as shown below. I received some added feedback on a few things which I will go back and refine as time allows and then I am planning to do some color studies and take this to a fully finished piece.