Monday, January 12, 2009

Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans....the real one, and my mini Marie!

The Family Tomb of Marie Laveau
Infamous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans
Portrait alleged to be Marie Laveau
Painted in 1837 by George Catlin

My interpretation of Marie Laveau
complete with pet snake Zombie, and a rosary to reflect the Catholic
influence on the Voodoo faith (somewhere I lost her bag of gris-gris).
(sorry, but my photography skills are non-existent!)

Marie's also known as The Widow Paris

First husband Jacques Paris mysteriously vanished
after most likely fathering the first two of Marie's children,
both of whom likely died as young children. It's whispered that Marie
hexed him with some voodoo, but the reality is, he was just one of those guys who ran
away from his responsibilities.

Marie's second husband, Christophe Duminy de Glapion stuck around quite a bit longer, fathering several more children, though likely NOT the 15 that is normally reported (more like 7, hmm...just like in my family!) There are many legends about Marie that are not based upon fact, such as that she danced in Congo Square with her pet python "Zombie"... writhing, conjuring, etc....tabloid reporting didn't start in this century, folks. It's always been around!

At any rate, Ms. Laveau was a woman ahead of her time, a Free Person of Color in a time of slavery in the deep south, who made her own living, raised her own children, and owned her own slaves. Much of her reputation is undeserved, she seemed to be a compassionate person, visiting condemned prisoners, helpful to her neighbors, and generally misunderstood by outsiders fearful of the uniqueness and differences of those outside their own culture. Perhaps she took advantage of these fears held by the Old Europeans and New Americans in her city. Maybe she played it to the hilt and had the last laugh. Can you blame her?

Her lineage is that of African, Native American and French. In making my doll, I attempted to depict these features, and also her age at about 1837, which would have been her late 30's to 40. In those days, women aged more quickly so I tried to show this in her face. I hope I came close to accomplishing this.

Marie's clothing is made from antique cotton mourning fabric in an appropriate scale print, and she wears the typical 'ballet' style slippers made from black antique silk ribbon. I painted her stand to simulate the early floorcloths popular in the early 19th century. She wears the popular 'tignon', a wrapped head piece to cover the hair of Women of Color in New Orleans in the 1800's. While these head wraps were a cultural identity...they were also used as a means around a nasty little law enacted against Women of Color due to the jealousy of the Creole French and Spanish and American Caucasian women in town. The Women of Color were just a little too pretty, a little too exotic and a little too tempting to the menfolk for these ladies' liking, so all Women of Color, Free or not, were required to cover their that was going to keep the men from noticing how lovely they were!

Unlike most of my dolls, Marie does have a mohair wig instead of sculpted paperclay. It is center parted, with braids looping over the ears, typical for the style of the time. I wanted to give her hoop earrings, but they pushed the hair loops straight out to the sides and this gave Marie a decidely undignified, dorky appearance. Just not acceptable for the formidable, renowned Voodoo Queen!

I really like Marie, and I hope that someday, someone makes a really fabulous Biopic on her. Queen Latifah would make a wonderful Marie Laveau!

By the way, I just got back from New Orleans, spent my Christmas vacation there, so that visit made me reminisce on this subject. Will write more on my trip in the next days.


  1. What beautiful dolls Robin.... Marie is exquisite!
    Can't wait to hear more on your trip to New Orleans!

  2. I had to visit you when I saw your doll posted on your sister's blog! You are so talented and I just LOVE old dolls. This post is so awesome! I love hearring about people of the past! If Marie really did some voodoo on her Husband- he probably deserved it..LOL!I'll be back to hear about New Orleans...Sandy :)

  3. Robin,
    Please put your wonderful New Orleans pics on your "Posts" so that we can all see them better.
    They look fantastic, but they are so small.
    I want to click on them, to enlarge,.... but I can't.
    We all want to se....pleaseeeeee

  4. I *love* your interpretation of Marie, particularily that you paid attention to *who* she was, and what her life would have been like...and double props for Queen Latifah as a modern day Marie!

  5. Wow!!! I love the story, Someday I will visti New Orlans and the French Quarter. But the Cementery! I can just imagine the above ground tombs and the stories they would tell. I love Marie, how you capture her mistique, that whole aura about her. Stunning! Youa are a great artiste...

  6. Sorry about the typos...My God! got so excited with your post...