Madame de Pompadour
  • Date: 1759
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 91 x 68 cm
  • Inv: P418
  • Location: Landing
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Further Reading
  • Pompadour has been famous for the important position as a patron and in politics that she obtained as Louis XV's mistress. Because of her great political intelligence, she successfully built and defended a highly influential position at the French court to a degree that was unusual for a mistress of the king. Madame de Maintenon had reached a similar position under Louis XIV and became a model for Pompadour's strategy. Pompadour became royal mistress in 1745 and remained an important political advisor equivalent to a minister after her sexual relationship with the king had ceased. A series of portraits by leading French painters - Jean-Marc Nattier, Boucher, Maurice Quentin de la Tour and Carle Vanloo - was commissioned and launched by her to publicise and strengthen her position in the public sphere. She also commissioned portrait sculptures by leading artists. Each work was intended to launch a specific message about Pompadour. The series has been most fully and most recently analysed by Andrea Weisbrod.

    A series of portraits by Boucher, painted between 1750 and 1759, played a central role in this strategy. Boucher's most famous portrait of Pompadour, a life-size full-length painted in 1756, is today in Munich. The Wallace Collection painting is part of a series of smaller portraits.

    In the years around 1750, Madame de Pompadour commissioned a series of works of art with friendship and fidelity as their central theme. These have often been interpreted as a reaction to the end of the sexual relationship between Louis XV and Pompadour. This might well be the case, but their most important message is the increased political importance of the Marquise who had become a major political advisor to the king, a position that was based on deep friendship between them. In the 1750s, she began to play the role of quasi-minister. The Wallace Collection’s portrait, the last known portrait Boucher painted of his patron, evokes these ideals by its inclusion of a sculpture depicting Friendship consoling Love that was based upon the work of eighteenth-century sculpor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. The presence of Madame de Pompadour’s pet spaniel, Inès, shown seated on the bench beside her mistress, also makes reference to the emotions of comfort and security that come with lasting friendship. The parkland setting stresses the 'natural' and honest character of her relationship to the king. Whereas many of her portraits were presented at the Paris Salon, this painting does not seem to have reached a wider audience.