Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




The Early Modern Period

16th - 18th century


 


The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.
 



Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.

 

 


France: From the Wars of Religion to the Eve of the Revolution

 


1562-1789
 


 



Louis XV and his Mistresses

 

 

 Pauline-Félicité de Mailly (1712 - 1741), marquise of Vintimille

Marie-Anne de Mailly (1717 – 1744), marchioness of La Tournelle, duchess of Châteauroux

Louise Julie de Mailly (1710 - 1751), countess of Mailly

Françoise de Châlus (1734 - 1821), duchess of Narbonne-Lara

Marie-Louise O'Murphy (1737 - 1815)

Jeanne Antoinette Bécu (1743 - 1793), countess of Barry

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson (1721 - 1764), marchioness of Pompadour

"A Clever Mistress" Madame la Marquise de Pompadour and Louis XV  (K.Reichold, B.Graf)

 

 

 

Pauline Félicité de Mailly-Nesle
 

Pauline Félicité de Mailly-NeslePauline-Félicité de Mailly, marquise de Vintimille (* 1712; † 9. September 1741 in Paris) war die Mätresse des französischen Königs Ludwig XV.

Pauline-Félicité war die zweite Tochter von Louis III. de Mailly-Neslé (1689–1767) und seiner Frau Armande Félice de La Porte Mazarin (1691–1729), Enkelin von Hortensia Mancini. Ihre Schwestern waren Louise Julie de Mailly-Nesle, comtesse de Mailly, Diane-Adélaïde de Mailly-Nesle, duchesse de Lauraguais und Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle, duchesse de Châteauroux.

Im Jahre 1739 wurde Pauline-Félicité de Mailly mit Jean-Baptiste Hubert Félix, comte de Vintimille (1720–1777) verheiratet. Ein Jahr später bat sie ihre Schwester, die am französischen Hof die Mätresse des Königs war, sie nach Paris einzuladen. Dort angekommen gewann sie die Gunst Ludwigs XV., der sie zur zweiten Mätresse neben ihrer Schwester Louise Julie machte. Der König verlieh ihr den Titel „Marquise de Vintimille“ und schenkte ihr das Schloss Choisy-le-Roi.

Pauline-Félicités Streben nach Geld und Macht war stärker ausgeprägt als bei ihrer Schwester, aber ihr Einfluss auf den König war nur kurz, denn sie starb bei der Geburt ihres ersten Kindes. Sie wurde in der Nähe von Versailles bestattet. Louis de Vintimille, duc de Luc (1741–1814) sah seinem Vater so ähnlich, dass er am Hof „zweiter Louis“ beziehungsweise „kleiner Louis“ genannt wurde. Später wollte Madame de Pompadour ihre Tochter Alexandrine-Jeanne d'Étiolles (1744–1754) mit ihm verheiraten, doch der König lehnte die Heiratspläne seiner Mätresse ab.

 


Pauline Félicité de Mailly-Nesle

 

 

 

Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle
 

Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle, marquise de La Tournelle, duchesse de Châteauroux, est une favorite de Louis XV née à Paris le 5 octobre 1717 et morte à Paris le 8 décembre 1744.

Cinquième fille de Louis III de Mailly-Nesle (1689-1767), marquis de Nesle, et de son épouse Armande Félice de La Porte Mazarin (1691-1729) (elle-même petite-fille d'Hortense Mancini et arrière-petite-nièce de Mazarin), Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle épouse en 1734 le marquis Louis de La Tournelle (1708-1740). Sa sœur aînée Louise Julie de Mailly-Nesle, comtesse de Mailly, avait été la maîtresse de Louis XV de 1737 à 1739. Elle fut ensuite remplacée auprès du roi par sa sœur cadette, Pauline Félicité de Mailly-Nesle, marquise de Vintimille. Mme de Vintimille mourut le 9 septembre 1741, et le roi tomba amoureux de Madame de la Tournelle, sa soeur la fit entrer au service de la reine le 4 octobre 1742,il la prit comme maîtresse en titre, en décembre 1742.Il la présenta à la cour le 24 octobre 1743 la marquise de La Tournelle, sœur des deux précédentes, poussée par le maréchal de Richelieu et Mme de Tencin, prit par orgueil la décision de devenir maîtresse royale. Il la titra duchesse de Châteauroux ( 20 octobre 1743) et renvoya sa sœur aînée de la cour (3 novembre 1742).

Devenue favorite en titre et soutenue par le duc de Richelieu, elle fut quelque temps toute-puissante à Versailles et usa de son influence pour entraîner la France dans la Guerre de Succession d'Autriche et persuader le Roi d'aller conquérir la gloire sur les champs de bataille en Flandre et en Alsace. Louis XV l'autorisa à la rejoindre dans les Flandres en juin 1744. En août, il tomba gravement malade à Metz. Il résolut de se repentir et de renvoyer sa maîtresse à Paris.

 


Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle par Jean-Marc Nattier

 

 

 

Louise Julie, Comtesse de Mailly


Louise Julie

Louise Julie, Comtesse de Mailly (1710 - 1751) was one of the many mistresses of Louis XV of France. Louise Julie was the eldest of four sisters who served as courtesans in the French royal court.

Her three sisters who were courtesans to French royalty were: Pauline-Félicité de Mailly (1712 - 1741), countess of Vintimille; Diane-Adélaïde de Mailly (1713 - 1760), duchess of Lauraguais; and Marie-Anne de Mailly (1717 – 1744), duchess of Châteauroux.

In 1726, Louise Julie wed her cousin, Louis Alexandre de Mailly. Shortly thereafter she caught the attention of Louis XV, and was permitted by her husband to become a royal mistress. Although she served Louis XV as a courtesan from 1732, she did not become "titular mistress" (in French, maîtresse en titre) until 1738. Louise Julie did not use her position to enrich herself or to interfere in politics, unlike her sister Marie-Anne, a later mistress of the king.

In 1740, she received a letter from her younger sister Pauline-Félicité requesting to be invited to court. Louise Julie granted her sister's wish, but upon her arrival at court, Pauline seduced the king and became his mistress.

Louise Julie remained titular mistress, but the king was in love with Pauline and gave her the title "marquise of Vintimille" by marrying her to the marquis of Vintimille, and the castle Choisy-le-Roi as a gift. However, Pauline quickly became pregnant, and she died giving birth to a son, Louis, the count de Luc, who looked so much like the king that he was called Demi-Louis, "small Louis". She was laid at Lit-the-Parade in the town of Versailles, but during the night, a mob broke in and mutilated the body of "the king's whore".

The king and Louise Julie were both devastated by the death of Pauline and shocked by the mutilation of her body, and Louise Julie is said to have begun to wash the feet of the poor.

Louise Julie was supplanted by her sister, Marie-Anne de Mailly-Nesle, duchess de Châteauroux, and obliged to leave court in 1742.

 

 

 

Françoise de Châlus

Françoise de Chalus, duchesse de Narbonne-Lara, dame de La Bove (24 février 1734 à Saint-Germain-Lembron - 7 juillet 1821 à Paris) fut une maîtresse du roi de France Louis XV.

Dame d'honneur de Madame Adélaïde, fille de Louis XV, elle était donc dans une situation privilégiée pour fréquenter son amant. Fille de Gabriel de Châlus, seigneur de Sansac et de Claire de Gerau, elle épousa en 1749 Jean-François, duc de Narbonne-Lara, sans postérité. Elle est néanmoins la mère de deux enfants: Philippe, duc de Narbonne-Lara (né le 28 décembre 1750 à Parme) et Louis-Marie, comte de Narbonne-Lara (né le 17 avril 1755).

 


Françoise de Chalus

 

 

 

Marie-Louise O'Murphy de Boisfaily

Marie-Louise O'Murphy de Boisfaily (21 October 1737 – 11 December 1814) was one of the younger mistresses of King Louis XV of France. Her life was dramatised in the 1997 novel Our Lady of the Potatoes.

She was the fifth daughter of an Irish officer who had taken up shoemaking in Rouen, France. After his death, her mother brought the family to Paris.

In 1752, at fourteen years of age, she posed nude for a memorable and provocative portrait by artist François Boucher. Casanova takes in his Memoirs (ch. 31) the credit for introducing her to Louis XV and from them it looks like the portrait is part of a sales campaign of her. The king, being the best bidder, took her as one of his mistresses, and she quickly became a favourite, giving birth to the king's illegitimate daughter, Agathe Louise de Saint-Antoine (1754 – 1774). General de Beaufranchet is also thought to have been her child but conceived legitimately with the comte de Beaufranchet.

After serving as a mistress to the king for just over two years, O'Murphy made a mistake that was common for many courtesans, that of trying to replace the official mistress. Around 1754, she unwisely tried to unseat the longtime royal favorite, Madame de Pompadour. This ill-judged move quickly resulted in O'Murphy's downfall at court; a marriage was arranged to comte de Beaufranchet. He died for France in 1757, at the battle of Rossbach. She would marry twice more, her third husband being thirty years her junior. The last marriage ended in divorce.

Following the French Revolution, O'Murphy was imprisoned because of her royal connections, but she survived the Reign of Terror and many years of political turmoil. She died in 1814 at the age of 77.

 


Marie-Louise O'Murphy (1737-1818), mistress to Louis XV of France, painted by Francois Boucher


see collection:


Francois Boucher

 

 

 

Madame du Barry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marie-Jeanne (or Jeanette) Bécu, Comtesse du Barry (19 August 1743 – 8 December, 1793) was the last maîtresse en titre of Louis XV of France and one of the victims of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.

Jeanne Bécu was born at Vaucouleurs, Lorraine, the illegitimate daughter of Anne Bécu, a woman of enticing beauty, who was variously reported as a seamstress or a cook. Her father was possibly Jean Baptiste Gormand de Vaubernier, a friar known as 'Brother Angel.' During her childhood, her mother's lover, Monsieur Billard-Dumonceaux, father of Jeanne's brother Claude (who died in infancy when only ten months old) funded her education at the convent of Saint-Aure.

At the age of fifteen, Marie-Jeanne moved to Paris, where she worked first as an assistant to a young hairdresser named Lametz (with whom she had a brief relationship which may have produced a daughter, although it is very improbable (Joan Haslip, Madame du Barry-The Wages Of Beauty, 1991, pg.6, TPP publication.), then as a companion (dame de compagnie) to an elderly widow Madame de la Garde, and later as a milliner's assistant in a shop named 'Á la Toilette' owned by a certain Monsieur Labille, where she became a very good friend of his daughter, the future painter Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. As reflected in art from the time, Jeanne was a remarkably attractive blonde. Her beauty came to the attention of Jean du Barry, a high-class pimp/procurer (Joan Haslip, Madame du Barry-The Wages Of Beauty, 1991, pg.13, TPP publication.) and owner of a casino, in 1763 whilst Jeanne was entertaining in Madame Quisnoy's brothel-casino (Agnes de Stoeckl, Mistress of Versailles, 1966, pg.23, John Murray.). He made her his mistress and helped establish her career as a courtesan in the highest circles of Parisian society, enabling her to take several wealthy men as her lovers.


Life as a courtesan and official mistress to Louis XV

She first became a courtesan known as Mademoiselle Lange, immediately becoming a sensation in Paris, building up a large aristocratic clientele. The dashing Maréchal de Richelieu became one of her recurring customers. Jean du Barry, however, saw her as a means of influence with Louis XV, who became aware of her in 1768 while she was on an errand at Versailles which involved the duc de Choiseul, who found her rather ordinary, in contrast to what most other men thought of her. In any case, Jeanne could not qualify as an official royal mistress unless she had a title; this was solved by her marriage to du Barry's brother, comte Guillaume du Barry, on 1 September 1768, including also a false birth certificate created by Jean, making Jeanne younger by three years and of nobler descent (Joan Haslip, Madame du Barry-The Wages Of Beauty, 1991, pg.27, TPP publication.).

Her official sponsor, Madame de Béarn, presented her to the Court at Versailles on 22 April 1769. Jeanne was wearing a queenly silvery white gown brocaded with gold, bedecked in jewels and with huge panniers at the sides, a dress which had been ordered especially by Richelieu, and the likes of which many courtiers had claimed had never been seen before.

Jeanne was a tremendous triumph. She now wore extravagant gowns of great proportions both in creation and cost, exhausting the treasury all the more. With diamonds covering her delicate neck and ears, she was now the king's maîtresse déclarée. Due to her new position at Court, she made both friends and enemies. Her most bitter rival was the comtesse Béatrix de Grammont, Choiseul's sister, who futilely had tried her best to acquire the place of the late Marquise de Pompadour.

Jeanne quickly accustomed herself in living in luxury, but her good nature was not spoilt. When the old comte and comtesse de Lousene were forcibly evicted from their château due to heavy debts, they were sentenced to beheading due to the Comtesse having shot dead a bailiff and police officer while resisting. To their great fortune, they were good friends with Madame de Béarn, who told Jeanne of their situation. Though warned by Richelieu of her possible failure, she asked the king to pardon them, refusing to rise from her kneeling posture if he did not accept her request. Louis XV was astounded and his heart thawed, saying, "Madame, I am delighted that the first favour you should ask of me should be an act of mercy!"(Stanley Loomis, Du Barry, 1965, pgs.55-6, Pyramid Books.)

While Jeanne was part of the faction that brought down the Duc de Choiseul, Minister of Foreign Affairs, she was unlike her late predecessor, Madame de Pompadour, in that she had little interest in politics, rather preferring to pass her time having new gowns made and ordering jewelry of every shape, size and colour.

While Jeanne was known for her good nature and support of artists, she grew increasingly unpopular because of the king's financial extravagance towards her. Her relationship with Marie Antoinette, the Dauphine of France, was contentious. The Dauphine supported Choiseul as the proponent of the alliance with Austria and also defied court protocol by refusing to speak to Mme du Barry, due not only to her disapproval of the latter's background, but also after hearing of du Barry's amused reaction to a story told by Cardinal de Rohan, in which Marie-Antoinette's mother, Maria Theresa, was slandered. What was to many an amusing incident had now become a phenomenon at Versailles, and since the Dauphine refused to speak to her, Mme du Barry furiously complained to the king. Eventually, during a ball on New Year's Day 1772, Marie Antoinette spoke to her, saying, "There are a great many people at Versailles today," but she made it clear to Count Mercy the very next instant that she would say nothing else to du Barry.

In time, the king started to show his age by constantly thinking of death and repentance, even missing 'appointments' in Jeanne's boudoir. During a brief stay at the Petit Trianon with her, Louis XV felt the first symptoms of his second (and last) smallpox attack. He was brought back to the palace at night and put to bed, where his three daughters and Mme du Barry were kept to attend him. At the king's request before his death in May 1774, Mme du Barry was sent away from the court and sent to the Abbaye du Pont-aux-Dames, near Meaux-en-Brie, as her continued presence at Versailles would have prevented the king from receiving the last sacrament, the "extreme unction".

Two years later, she moved to the Château de Louveciennes. In following years, she had a liaison with Louis Hercule Timolon de Cossé, Duke of Brissac(Joan Haslip, Madame du Barry-The Wages Of Beauty, 1991, pg.133, TPP publication.). She later also fell in love with Henry Seymour, whom she met when he moved with his family to the Château's whereabouts. In time Seymour became fed up with his secret love affair and sent a painting to Jeanne with the words written 'leave me alone' in English at the bottom, which the painter Lemoyne copied in 1796. The Duke de Brissac proved the more faithful, having kept Jeanne in his heart even though he jealously knew something was going on between her and Seymour. Unfortunately the Revolution brought misfortune for the two. Brissac had been captured whilst visiting Paris, and was slaughtered by a peasant mob. Late one night Jeanne heard the sound of a small drunken crowd approaching the Château, and from one of her opened windows from where she looked out someone threw an object covered with a blood-stained cloth. To Jeanne's horror, it was Brissac's head, at which sight she fainted.

 

In 1792, Mme du Barry made several trips to London in order to authenticate jewelry, which was stolen from her with the aid of her now-grown black page Zamor, who disliked his mistress for her airy attitude (Joan Haslip, Madame du Barry-The Wages Of Beauty, 1991, pg.151, TPP publication.). In addition, she was suspected of financially assisting émigrés who had fled the French Revolution. The following year, she was arrested by the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris on charges of treason. After a trial, Mme du Barry was executed by guillotine on the Place de la Révolution (nowadays, Place de la Concorde) on 8 December 1793. She had tried to save herself by revealing the hiding places of the gems she had hidden around her property (Agnes de Stoeckl, Mistress of Versailles, 1966, pg.174, John Murray.).

On the way to the guillotine, she continually collapsed in the tumbrel and cried "You are going to hurt me! Why?!" She became terrified at the time of her execution: "She screamed, she begged mercy of the horrible crowd that stood around the scaffold, she aroused them to such a point that the executioner grew anxious and hastened to complete his task." Her last words to the executioner: "Encore un moment, monsieur le bourreau, un petit moment," ("One moment more, Mr. executioner, one little moment"). She was buried in a common grave in the Madeleine cemetery (Cimetière de la Madeleine) where had been buried Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and many victims of the Terror in Paris.

Since she was now dead and had no known heirs, the proceeds went to the Tribunal de Paris. Later the jewels she had smuggled out of France to England were sold by auction at Christie's in 1795 for the not inconsequential sum of £8,791 4s 9d. .

The necklace involving Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, which was the same one that the dauphine Marie Antoinette was wrongly accused of bribing Rohan to purchase for her, was originally destined for Mme du Barry by Louis XV, who died before the purchase could take place, leaving the jewellers Bohmer and Bassenge desperate for a buyer of the overly-expensive creation.

 


Madame du Barry

 


Madame du Barry by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1781

 

Madame du Barry, posthumous portrait ca 1789–1805,
by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun.
 

Madame du Barry,
by François-Hubert Drouais

 


Madame du Barry, 1782 von Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

 

 

 


A Clever Mistress


Madame la Marquise de Pompadour and Louis XV


(K.Reichold, B.Graf)
 


Francois Boucher
Portrait of Madame de Pompadour
1756
Oil on canvas
201 x 157 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
 


I am always being blamed for the general wretchedness, the Cabinet's unfounded policies, the disastrous war campaigns and the triumphs celebrated by our enemies. I stand accused of having sold everything, of having my fingers in every pie, of ruling behind the scenes. One day at dinner the King asked an old man to be so kind as to give his compliments to the Marquise de Pompadour. Everyone laughed at the poor man as a simpleton. But I did not laugh.

Madame la Marquise de Pompadour(1721-1764), Letters, 1922

 

 



There was a small secret staircase at Versailles that led from the king's Cabinet to the second floor. There dwelled a lady named Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, who has gone down in history as the Marquise de Pompadour. Louis XV of France, the Sun King's great-grandson and his successor, frequently climbed the steps to visit her. He is said to have preferred to disappear from Cabinet meetings for trysts with his mistress. When that happened, the ministers had to sit and wait for the king until he returned as Court etiquette forbade their leaving the room without the monarch. Thus Court lackeys could be deceived into thinking the king had spent the entire time in conference with his ministers.

Witty, cultured and beautiful, Madame de Pompadour may have been the daughter of a head-groom working on a duke's estate; her mother was a beauty in her own right. Madame de Pompadour was the fourth official royal mistress. Although married to the Polish princess Maria Leszczyriska since 1725, Louis XV seems to have embarked on his first extramarital affair in 1733. The first years of his marriage had been happy ones and six daughters and a son survived the union with Maria, who was deeply humiliated by her husband's infidelity. The first three royal mistresses to be established successively at Court from 1738 spent their time giving parties at the king's expense and behaving in a way that aroused public indignation. Years afterwards the queen was still complaining of having nightmares about her husband's dreadful mistresses.

Madame la Marquise de Pompadour was altogether different. She was unlike the others. No Bacchanalian parties took place in the private apartments of this grande dame. She gave exquisite little dinners with the king and invitations to them were coveted indeed. Moreover, Madame la Marquise was anxious to be on a good footing with the queen. She visited her every day, brought her flowers and chatted with her. The Marquise was even known to have served on occasion as an intermediary between the king and queen. When she heard one day that the queen had lost a considerable sum at gambling but was afraid to tell her husband what had happened, Madame de Pompadour asked the king for the privilege of paying the queen's debts of honour herself. Submitting to fate with gentle piety, Maria Leszcyriska allowed Madame de Pompadour to take her place at the king's side. The bourgeoise, whose paternity has never been satisfactorily established, became the power behind the throne at Versailles. When it came to appointing officials and ministers and making major decisions, Louis XV always consulted his mistress.

For this reason Francois Boucher, once her drawing master and Court Painter to the king, painted a semi-official portrait of her. The seal and letter probably hint at her political ambition. That she was an accomplished singer is symbolised by the scores scattered at her feet. Even the little spaniel was not a prop provided by the painter. Her name was Mimi and she really did belong to Madame de Pompadour.
 

 


Maurice Quentin de Latour
Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour
1755

 

 


Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour

1759
Oil on canvas, 91 x 68 cm
Wallace Collection, London
 


Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour

1758
Oil on canvas, 72,5 x 57 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
 

 


Francois Boucher
Marquise de Pompadour at the Toilet-Table

1758
Oil on canvas, 81 x 63 cm
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge
 

 


 

 


Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour

 

 

 


Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pampadour

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


born Dec. 29, 1721, Paris
died April 15, 1764, Versailles, Fr.


byname Madame De Pompadour, also called (1741–45) Jeanne-Antoinette Le Normant D'étioles influential mistress (from 1745) of the French king Louis XV and a notable patron of literature and the arts.
Early years.

Her parents were on the fringes of a class gaining in importance, speculators in the world of finance. Some of these people made immense fortunes, but many ended in the gutter if not in prison. Her father, François Poisson, involved in a black-market scandal, had to flee the country in 1725; his beautiful wife and two small children were then looked after by a more fortunate colleague, Le Normant de Tournehem. Both children were clever, and the girl was fascinating; she was educated to be the wife of a rich man. In those days rich men, even if they came from a low class, were interested in art and literature, and they expected their wives to share these interests.

By the time Mademoiselle Poisson was of an age to marry, she could hold her own in any society and had made friends with many distinguished men, including Voltaire. Le Normant de Tournehem arranged a match for her with his own nephew, Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Etioles, a rising young man; they had a little girl, Alexandrine. Madame d'Etioles became a shining star of Parisian society and was admired by the King himself. In 1744 Louis XV's young mistress, the Duchesse de Chateauroux, died suddenly. She was soon replaced by Madame d'Étioles, who obtained a legal separation from her husband and was created marquise de Pompadour.

Nineteenth-century historians thought that Madame de Pompadour had complete ascendancy over Louis XV. These post-Revolution writers were concerned with portraying the Bourbon monarchs as poor creatures; it is now generally admitted that Louis XV was a much more able man than he has been painted. Shy and introspective, he had difficulty in communicating with people whom he did not know well. Madame de Pompadour acted as his private secretary, but, although she gave the orders, the decisions were made by the King.

She began her reign at Versailles modestly. She was lodged in a few rooms under the roof; she set out to make herself agreeable to all those who counted for anything in the palace, beginning with Queen Marie (Maria Leszczynska). Marie could hardly have been a more unsuitable wife for the handsome, artistic, sensual, and pleasure-loving Louis XV. Eight years older than he, she was preoccupied with the welfare of her father (a deposed king of Poland), with childbearing, and with religion. After giving birth to an heir to the throne (and eight or nine other children between 1727 and 1737), she let the King understand that she had no wish to remain sexually intimate with him.

After five romantic years in her attic, Madame de Pompadour moved downstairs to a regal apartment. Louis XV now began to take other mistresses, but Madame de Pompadour was more firmly established than ever before; favours, promotions, and privileges could be obtained only through her good offices.


Artistic and political collaboration with Louis.

Her collaboration with the King was twofold, artistic and political. The artistic side was wholly successful. On her suggestion, her brother was appointed director of the King's buildings and created marquis de Marigny; the brother, the sister, and Louis XV, working in perfect harmony, planned and built the École Militaire and the Place Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) in Paris, most of the palace of Compiègne, the Petit Trianon Palace at Versailles, a new wing at the palace of Fontainebleau, and the exquisite Château de Bellevue, as well as many pavilions and summer houses. He and his mistress patronized all forms of decorative art: painters, sculptors, cabinetmakers, and craftsmen worked under the royal eye; the famous porcelain factory was built at Sèvres. Madame de Pompadour's 20 years of power marked the very apogee of taste in France. The protector of most of the authors and the editor of the Encyclopédie, she would have liked to do for literature what she did for the arts, but the King had no literary interests and disliked the intellectuals whom he knew.

The political collaboration between the King and his mistress was much less successful than the artistic, mainly because the French politicians and generals of the day were of such poor calibre. The Duc de Choiseul, by far the ablest of the ministers, was Madame de Pompadour's protégé. He was brought in to implement the famous Reversal of Alliances, which allied Francewith its old enemy Austria against the German Protestant principalities. This was a statesmanlike conception, but it was unpopular and led to the Seven Years' War, disastrous to France. Frederick the Great crushed the huge, incompetently led French and Austrian armies, while the English were driving the French out of Canada. All these defeats were laid at the door of Madame de Pompadour. She fell prey to melancholy, and soon after the end of the war she died, in the spring of 1764, probably of cancer of the lung, in her apartment at Versailles. One of her last actions was to get Louis XV's support for the revision of the Calas case, a gross miscarriage of justice in which Voltaire was interested.

Voltaire said of her:

I mourn her out of gratitude . . . Born sincere, she loved the King for himself; she had righteousness in her soul and justice in her heart; all this is not to be met with every day.


Nancy Mitford
 

 

 


Portraits of Marquise de Pompadour
 

 
 

Francois Hubert Drouais

 
   

Carle van Loo

Luois Marin Bonnet

   

Auguste de Saint Aubin

Jean-Marc Nattier

 

   

Alexander Roslin

Chaudon F.



see collection:

Francois Boucher

 

 

 

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