Ladies with Letters: Madame de Pompadour

FRancois Boucher -- PompadourIn Wikipedia’s article about Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, better known as Madame de Pompadour, her occupation is listed as “Chief Mistress to Louis XV.”

And perhaps that is the best way to describe her position, a complex job that she filled for 19 years in the intrigue-filled world of the 18th century French court.

Jeanne became the king’s mistress at age 24 and held the official title of Chief Mistress until her death. Even though there were other mistresses, including some introduced to Louis by Madame de Pompadour herself, she maintained her position and influence through wit and charm, and by having several flattering portraits painted of herself to remind the king of her beauty even as age diminished it. Jeanne was also intelligent enough to treat Queen Marie with respect, leading her royal highness to frequently remark, “If there must be a mistress, better her than any other.”

Although Madame de Pompadour is neither reading nor writing a letter in this portrait by François Boucher, the supplies necessary to pen something are near at hand on the bedside table: quill pen, stick of red sealing wax, pot of ink and probably paper stored out of view in the little drawer. Apparently, she favored small sheets of notepaper, edged in gold, for those letters she wrote herself as opposed to those she signed after a secretary drafted them.

I love how her gown is as decorated with ribbons and roses as an old-fashioned wedding cake. Her femininity is also echoed in the lush roses at her feet, but she is careful to display her cultured side as well with books and papers strewn about the room. An opened letter sits on the table, waiting to be answered as soon as Madame de Pompadour finishes one more chapter of the book held in her silken lap.

You can find cards and other items featuring Madame de Pompadour in the Post Whistle store on Zazzle.

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