Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour ( December 29 1721 – April 15 1764,) was a member of the French court and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to her death.
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, otherwise known as Reinette ("little queen") to her friends, was born on 29 December 1721 in Paris to François Poisson (1684–1754) and his wife Madeleine de La Motte (1699–1745). However, it is suspected that her biological father was either the rich financier Pâris de Montmartel or the tax collector (fermier général) Le Normant de Tournehem.
Le Normant de Tournehem became her legal guardian when François Poisson was forced to leave the country in 1725 after a scandal over a series of unpaid debts, a crime at that time punishable by death. (He was cleared eight years later and allowed to return to France.) Her younger brother was Abel-François Poisson de Vandières, who would later become the marquis de Marigny.
Jeanne Antoinette was intelligent, beautiful and refined. She spent her younger childhood at the Ursuline convent in Poissy where she received a good education. At adolescence, her mother took personal charge of her education at home by hiring tutors who taught her to recite entire plays by heart, play the clavichord, dance, sing, paint and engrave. She became an accomplished actress and singer, and also attended Paris's Club de l'Entresol (formed in 1724 and suppressed in 1731). The greatest expense of her education was undoubtedly the employment of renowned singers and actors, such as Pierre Jélyotte, much of it paid for by Le Normant de Tournehem; and it may have been this in particular that sparked rumours of his paternity to Jeanne Antoinette.
She later claimed that, at the age of nine, she was taken by her mother to a fortune teller and told that she would someday reign over the heart of a king. Apparently, her mother believed the prophecy and accordingly nicknamed her "Reinette" (meaning "little queen").
At the age of nineteen, Jeanne Antoinette was married to Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Étiolles, nephew of her guardian, who accepted the match and the large financial incentives that came with it. These included the estate at Étiolles (28 km south of Paris), a wedding gift from her guardian, which was situated on the edge of the royal hunting ground of the forest of Sénart. With her husband, she had two children, a boy who died a year after his birth in 1741 and Alexandrine-Jeanne (nicknamed "Fanfan"), born August 10, 1744.
Contemporary opinion supported by artwork from the time considered the young Mme d'Étiolles to be quite beautiful, with her small mouth and oval face enlivened by her wit. Her young husband was soon infatuated with her and she was celebrated in the fashionable world of Paris. She founded her own salon, at Étiolles, and was joined by many philosophes, among them Voltaire.
As Mme d'Étiolles became known in society, King Louis XV came to hear of her. In 1745, a group of courtiers, including her father-in-law, promoted her acquaintance with the monarch, who was still mourning the death of his third official mistress, the duchesse de Châteauroux.
Jeanne Antoinette was invited to a royal masked ball at the Palace of Versailles on the night of 25 to 26 February 1745, one of the many fêtes given to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin Louis de France (1729–65) to the Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain (1726–46). By March, she was the king's mistress, installed at Versailles in an apartment directly below his. On 7 May, the official separation between her and her husband was pronounced.
To be presented at court, she required a title. The king purchased the marquisate of Pompadour on 24 June and gave the estate, with title and coat-of-arms, to Jeanne Antoinette, making her a Marquise. On 14 September, she was formally introduced to the court by the king's cousin, the Princess de Conti. She quickly mastered the highly-mannered court etiquette. Her mother died on Christmas Day of the same year, and did not live to see her daughter's achievement at becoming the undisputed royal mistress.
Madame de Pompadour suffered two miscarriages in 1746 and 1749, and she is said to have arranged lesser mistresses for the King's pleasure to replace herself. Although they had ceased being lovers after 1750, they remained friends, and Louis XV was devoted to her until her death from tuberculosis in 1764 at the age of forty-two. Even her enemies admired her courage during the final painful weeks. Voltaire wrote: "I am very sad at the death of Madame de Pompadour. I was indebted to her and I mourn her out of gratitude. It seems absurd that while an ancient pen-pusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty two." Yet, at the time of her death, many enemies were greatly relieved and she was publicly blamed for the Seven Years' War. Looking at the rain during the departure of his mistress' coffin from Versailles, the King reportedly said: "La marquise n'aura pas de beau temps pour son voyage." ("The marquise won't have good weather for her journey.")
Madame de Pompadour, also by
François Boucher (September 29 1703 – May 30 1770) was a French painter, a proponent of Rococo taste, known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories representing the arts or pastoral occupations, intended as a sort of two-dimensional furniture. He was perhaps the most celebrated decorative artist of the 18th century. He also painted several portraits of his illustrious patroness, Madame de Pompadour. Boucher is famous for saying that nature is "trop verte et mal éclairée" (too green and badly lit).
Rococo less commonly roccoco, also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century artistic movement and style, which affected several aspects of the arts including painting, sculpture, architecture, interior design, decoration, literature, music and theatre. The Rococo developed in the early part of the 18th century in Paris, France as a reaction against the grandeur, symmetry and strict regulations of the Baroque, especially that of the Palace of Versailles.
In such a way, Rococo artists opted for a more jocular, florid and graceful approach to Baroque art and architecture. Rococo art and architecture in such a way was ornate and made strong usage of creamy, pastel-like colors, asymmetrical designs, curves and gold. Unlike the more politically focused Baroque, the Rococo had more playful and often witty artistic themes.
With regards to interior decoration, Rococo rooms were designed as total works of art with elegant and ornate furniture, small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry complementing architecture, reliefs, and wall paintings. The Rococo additionally played an important role in theatre. In the book The Rococo, it is written that there was no other culture which "has produced a wittier, more elegant, and teasing dialogue full of elusive and camouflaging language and gestures, refined feelings and subtle criticism" than Rococo theatre, especially that of France.Towards the end of the 18th century, Rococo started to fall out of fashion, and it was largely supplanted by the Neoclassic style.