Pompadour, Marquise de

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Pompadour, Marquise de (1721-64): French Patron.

Wielding power granted to her by French king Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour greatly influenced European politics, architecture, and artistic taste throughout the mid-eighteenth century.

Born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson in Paris on 29 December 1721, she grew up as part of a prominent banking family and became known in bourgeois circles as a young woman of refinement and intelligence. She married at the age of twenty, becoming Madame Lenormand d’Etoiles. Four years later, she made her first appearance at the royal court and almost immediately became one of the king’s mistresses living at the Palace of Versailles. Louis XV then bought her the title of Marquise de Pompadour. Having little taste for administrative matters, Louis came to rely increasingly on Madame de Pompadour. She served essentially as the king’s appointments secretary for some two decades, and represented him in many negotiations with government officials. Her advice greatly affected French policy, even helping determine France’s role in the Seven Years War.

Madame de Pompadour’s taste for luxury made itself apparent with her many artistic and architectural additions to Versailles. Her patronage supported the painter Boucher, François, the sculptor Pigalle, the architect Gabriel and many decorative craftsmen. She favored the baroque-rococco style, which soon swept Europe, yet also commissioned the neo-classical Petit Trianon residence. On 15 April 1764, she died at Versailles, possibly from cancer. For many, she epitomized the sophisticated woman of her time.

Further Reading:

Nancy Mitford, Madame de Pompadour, 1984

Dianna Rivers

Lamar University

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