Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour

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  • Full-length portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour.

    DE LA TOUR Quentin (1704 - 1788)

  • Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour.

    BUTCHER François (1703 - 1770)

To close

Title: Full-length portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour.

Author : DE LA TOUR Quentin (1704 - 1788)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 175 - Width 128

Technique and other indications: Pastel

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre Museum) / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 85-001429 / INV27614-recto

Full-length portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre Museum) / Gérard Blot

Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour.

© BPK, Berlin, Dist RMN-Grand Palais - image BStGS

Publication date: November 2012

Professor of modern history at the University of Paris X Nanterre

Historical context

How to represent the favorite?

Favorites are rarely popular. The court accepts its existence, all great families aspire to such an honor, but the intrigues of the different factions are formidable, and it is often from them that the cruelest epigrams, the darkest accusations come.

Coming from the middle class, Mme de Pompadour née Poisson was not spared. They invented the "fish" as there had been the "mazarinades", often unjust, sometimes funny, always nasty. Anxious to enhance her image, the favorite of Louis XV herself commissioned these two portraits, that of Boucher in large part because de La Tour was slow to honor an order placed in 1749. The painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1755.
Boucher's portrait, made in 1756, was exhibited at the Salon of 1757. To get the king out of the boredom that was gnawing at him, Madame de Pompadour made use of her artistic talents: she had a pretty voice and played a nice comedy. At the beginning of 1756, she was appointed Supernumerary Lady of the Queen's Palace; it plays a role in the reversal of alliances and the diplomatic rapprochement with Austria.

Image Analysis

From blue to green, the colors of success

Surrounded by the blue of the tapestry, the back of the armchair, the carpet, the cover of the score she is reading, the Marquise stands straight, quite vertical, well in the center of de La Tour's pastel. Marrying beiges with hints of blue, the dress unfolds in an elegant drape and reveals a piece of lace petticoat and two small delicate shoes. No jewelry, no trinket, nothing in the hair. Great simplicity. A slight disorder reigns around the marquise: a guitar on an armchair, a sketchbook on the floor, closed with laces ... blue obviously. This neglected scholar underlines by contrast the energy which the character gives off. We are in the presence of a dynamic young woman, interrupted for a moment in deciphering her score, but who will return to it very soon.

Boucher’s painting produces a very different impression: languid, the marquise occupies the diagonal of a canvas dominated by the green of a vast dress strewn with roses and invaded with ribbons. To the profusion of adornments offered by this "simple" French afternoon dress are added rich beaded bracelets, a ribbon tied around the neck and tiara roses.

Madame de Pompadour poses in front of a huge mirror with a gilded frame adorned with garlands of roses which gives depth to the scene and reinforces the theatrical character of the two yellow hangings. But isn't the function of this mirror rather to show the pretty neck of the Marchioness? The negligee is more supported than at de La Tour: more roses and partitions are at his feet next to a small black dog sitting there quietly. Placed on a delicate little table with a half-open drawer, an unsealed letter shows that the marquise has devoted herself to her mail. Time stands still. The Marchioness holds a book limply in her hand, but she seems to be dreaming.


Enlightenment activist or fanfreluche queen?

The pastel by de La Tour underlines the philosophical friendships of the Marquise. Attacked by devotees of the court, Madame de Pompadour actually tried to protect their opponents. Among the books that surround him and are therefore presented as his favorite readings, we recognized The Spirit of Laws of Montesquieu, the Henriade by Voltaire and a volume ofEncyclopedia by Diderot and d'Alembert. Imagine that the large score she is holding in her hands is that of the Village diviner, opera by Rousseau which was performed before the court at Fontainebleau (and whose tunes Louis XV sang with the most false voice of his kingdom), and we would have the Pantheon of Lights populating the study room of the favorite between engravings , boards and terrestrial globe.

This militant dimension, and for some very compromising, is totally blurred in Boucher. Wisely locked in a bookcase, his books are visible only by their reflection in the mirror, titles upside down. The book, carelessly placed askew under the little secretary, shows the marquise's arms. The books closest to Madame de Pompadour, the one she holds in her hand, the one that is all dogged in the secretary, are small daily pamphlets that show a now commonplace practice of reading. Are these novels? The favorite is not presented here as a philosopher. The Mercure from France (October 1757) clearly underlines the message: “The portrait of Madame la Marquise de Pompadour by M. Boucher is well worthy of his brush. What graces! What riches! What ornaments! Books, drawings and other accessories indicate Madame la Marquise de Pompadour's taste for the sciences and the arts that she loves, which she successfully cultivates and to the study of which she knows how to devote useful moments. The painter of graces only rendered nature, without being pained by the care to embellish or flatter his model. "

For a favorite, it is not without risk to be represented. Far from the official portraits of the royal family or the great figures of the court, Madame de Pompadour seems to play modesty in the privacy of her study. Rather, these portraits provided arguments for those who accused him of gentrifying the king and deviating from his duties.

  • Louis XV
  • royal mistress
  • portrait
  • absolute monarchy
  • Montesquieu (Charles Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède and)


· Xavier SALMON (dir.), Exhibition catalog Madame de Pompadour and the arts, Paris, R.M.N., 2002.

To cite this article

Monique COTTRET, "Madame de Pompadour"



  1. Ealdwode

    Cold comfort!

  2. Seosaph

    Agree, very useful piece

  3. Vasek

    Rather valuable message

  4. Alston

    I apologize for interfering ... I am aware of this situation. One can discuss.

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