Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

Designing a Calligraphy Quote for Marie Antoinette, Who Actually Didn’t Say “Let Them Eat Cake…”

Designing a quotation in calligraphy for the modern age is not, forgive me, always a piece of cake. Sometimes it is quite vexing, especially when you test your ideas out on a trusted focus group and they say things like “Why does that calligraphy look like frosting?” or “You know, Marie Antoinette never actually said “let them eat cake….” Sigh. . . .

It appears to be true, that my favorite diva of a previous gilded age was not the author of that quote and was in fact a lovely woman who showered the peasants (her peasants) with presents. Regardless, given the current rehash of the gilded ages playing out daily on television, internet and IRL, Marie Antoinette and her current doppelgängers have been on my mind. These classic Words That Marie Did Not Say sound completely contemporary today.

Here are three different approaches I took to creating a modern broadside from a classic text. I knew I wanted the letters to echo the form of both a gown and a cake, and settled very quickly on the style of script. The big question was context: what kind of background should the lettering have? The first version was done in the spirit of the parlor, with an ornamental touch.


Marie Antoinette Cake calligraphy by Iskra

Marie Antoinette on a plate, with lace.

Then I started thinking about the French Revolution, which wasn’t really that pretty. Think rioting in the street, guillotines, torches and smoke. This version feels cinematically correct, and evokes the mood of a revolution:

Let them eat cake quotation in French revolution style

Marie running from the riots.

Lastly I did this version, in which the cake stands in for an urban kiosk, and could be right down the street in my own fair city, with its lush graffiti gardens and cyber-dystopian perfumes. I know, you can’t really read it, but that’s the beauty of urban walls.

Let Them Eat Cake Graffiti Style by Iskra

Marie, dressing for a riot.

I dearly hope Marie is not offended by my liberties. I grew very fond of her while hand lettering the title for her biography:

Maire Antoinette Title design by Iskra

The Real Marie.

Let me know what you think. Should I have actually baked a cake and done the words in real frosting? Next time! ‘Til then, follow me on Instagram and theispot to see what’s cooking in the studio.