Madame de Pompadour: The Purpose of a Portrait

"Madame de Pomadour standing at a Clavichord" by François Boucher, probably 1750

“Madame de Pomadour standing at a Clavichord” by François Boucher, probably 1750


This project is focused on portraiture depicting Madame de Pompadour that was commissioned and completed during her lifetime. Contrasts among portrait artists and first-hand accounts of physical appearance revealed that while Boucher was her favorite portrait artist, he was certainly not the most realistic in his likenesses of her. My initial hypothesis was that she had a grand political scheme to win over the general public by believing in the eternal beauty which Boucher granted her, but further research revealed she only ever showed one Boucher portrait to the public (1757 Salon, centerpiece). The rest were only displayed in Versailles. This revelation, coupled with the countless examples of her fierce protection of her position and deep love for Louis XV have led me to conclude that these portraits were merely yet another tool to aid her in her defining project: continuously captivating the King.

Abstract and Description

My final project is a fictional publication in which Madame de Pompadour is “interviewed.” All quotes in the article from all persons are either based upon or taken directly from real quotes from reliable sources, and all events referenced (besides the interview itself) are entirely factual. Endnotes indicate which sources provided the basis for each event. For the sake of the modern-day setting, all dates in the publication are adjusted relative to 2014 = 1758. As part of the interview, Madame de Pompadour recreates her Boucher portraits in her bedroom/toilette. They allow her to send them off to Boucher to edit (historical reasoning for this provided in the article). Before publishing, the interviewers compare and contrast the pictures they took with the new edits, arriving at the conclusion presented in the thesis statement above. In a daring move, they decided to publish everything, a nod to the intense scrutiny Madame de Pompadour endured by the media later in life. The blatant use of everyday objects to create these photos emphasizes her middle class origins and how the nobles of the court would always look past her education and courtly training to the fact that her title was purchased, the ultimate mark of a bourgeoisie.


Final Project