Madame de Pompadour: 1750-1760
Madame de Pompadour (Jeanne Antoinette Poisson) was born on December 29th, 1721 in Paris, France. She was a member of the French Court but was more prominently recognized as the chief mistress of King Louis XV, from 1745 until 1751. Her name might sound familiar, as she has a popular hairstyle, “pompadour” named after her. In many of her portraits, she is painted wearing beautiful, silk-patterned gowns that are adorned with flowers and lace fabric. Pompadour is often painted with backgrounds that match her outfit, such as plants or silk curtains. Pompadour was a woman of authority who faced scrutiny as a mistress, due to France’s strained political climate under King Louis XV’s reign. As a beautiful and favored mistress, Pompadour was sexualized and criticized for being able to gain the attention of the king. She became a powerful political figure for, in many people’s eyes, succeeding in power and influence over the king. By supporting the tapestry industry and a royal porcelain factory, among being an artist, she held a crucial role in the French Enlightenment.
“She did etchings, cut gems, played music, staged court amusements and curated and commissioned artists to produce works that were displayed in her private collection and at the court...Women who could interpret and curate artistic and scientific innovation played an important role in the French Enlightenment. That’s true for Pompadour–she knew and patronized Enlightenment figures like Voltaire” (Smithsonian).