Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map

Maurice Quentin de Latour

see collection:

Francois Boucher




Francois Boucher

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Sept. 29, , Paris

painter, engraver, and designer whose works are regarded as the perfect expression of French taste in the Rococo period.

Trained by his father, a lace designer, Boucher won the Prix de Rome in 1723. He was influenced by the works of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Peter Paul Rubens, and his teacher François Le Moine (Le Moyne). Boucher's first major commission was for engravings of 125 drawings by Antoine Watteau. After illustrating an edition of Molière's works, he drew cartoons of farmyard scenes and chinoiserie for the Beauvais tapestry factory.

Boucher first won fame with his sensuous and light-hearted mythological paintings and pastoral landscapes. He executed important decorative commissions for the queen at Versailles and for his friend and patron, Mme de Pompadour, at Versailles, Marly, and Bellevue. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1734 and then became the principal producer of designs for the royal porcelain factories, as well as director of the Gobelins tapestry factory. In 1765 he became director of the Royal Academy and held the title of first painter to King Louis XV.

During the 1740s and '50s Boucher's elegant and refined but playful style became the hallmark of the court of Louis XV. His work was characterized by the use of delicate colours, gently modeled forms, facile technique, and frivolous subject matter. Boucher is generally acclaimed as one of the great draftsmen of the 18th century, particularly in his handling of the female nude.

Although immensely successful, Boucher lost his artistic preeminence toward the end of his life; overproduction, poor translations of his paintings into tapestries, the growing sterility of his own work, and the emergence of Neoclassicism caused him to lose favour, both with the public and with such leading art critics as Denis Diderot.


The Marquise de Pompadour (1721—64). mistress of King Louis XV, gave her name to a style that prevailed from 1745 for two decades in France. The Pompadour style was full-blown Rococo, expressed with tremendous panache in the architecture and decoration of the enchanting chateaux built at Crecy, Fontainebleau, Champs-en-Brie, and Bellevue. A patron of free thinkers, most notably Voltaire and Rousseau, Mme de Pompadour lent her support to the publication of the Encyclopedie after a decree had been passed to suppress it. She also took a great interest in painting under the tutelage of Boucher, whose spirited work embodied the style of her epoch. The marquise commissioned The Light of the World (1750) and other religious subjects from Boucher for the chapels of her country houses and her Paris residences. Boucher produced several portraits of the king's mistress: the first in 1750, her official portrait of 1756, and another in 1759. in which the artist captures both her private and public face. Boucher alludes to her artistic taste and cultural interests by surrounding her with exquisite objects. Similarly, the lively pastel portrait executed by Maurice Quentin de Latour (1704-88) conveys a subtle homage to Mme de Pompadour's intellectual abilities: beside her, she has the most recent volume of the Encyclopedie, the publication of which she personally endorsed, as well as Montesquieu's L'Esprit des Lois, Voltaire's Henriade, and Guarini's Le Berger Fidele.


Maurice-Quentin de La Tour

(b Saint-Quentin, 5 Sept 1704; d Saint-Quentin, 17 Feb 1788).

French pastellist. He was one of the greatest pastellists of the 18th century, an equal of Jean-Simeon Chardin and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau. Unlike them, however, he painted no works in oils. Reacting against the stately portraits of preceding generations and against the mythological portraits of many of his contemporaries, La Tour returned to a more realistic and sober style of work. The fundamental quality of his art lies in his ability to suggest the temperament and psychology of his subjects by means of their facial expression, and thereby to translate their fugitive emotions on to paper: ‘I penetrate into the depths of my subjects without their knowing it, and capture them whole’, as he himself put it. His considerable success led to commissions from the royal family, the court, the rich bourgeoisie and from literary, artistic and theatrical circles. While La Tour’s extensive oeuvre (Besnard and Wildenstein recorded over 1200 pastels and drawings) contains many outstanding pictures and was the result of a remarkable technical mastery, a certain degree of repetitiveness may be discerned occasionally.


Maurice Quentin de Latour

Pastel on paper
Musée de Picardie, Amiens


Maurice Quentin de Latour
Maurice, Comte de Saxe, Marshal of France

Pastel on paper, 59,5 x 49 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden


Maurice Quentin de Latour
Mlle Ferrand Meditating on Newton

Pastel on paper, 73 x 60 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich



A Clever Mistress

Madame la Marquise de Pompadour and Louis XV

(K.Reichold, B.Graf)

Francois Boucher
Portrait of Madame de Pompadour
Oil on canvas
201 x 157 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

I am always being blamed for the general wretchedness, the Cabinet's unfounded policies, the disastrous war campaigns and the triumphs celebrated by our enemies. I stand accused of having sold everything, of having my fingers in every pie, of ruling behind the scenes. One day at dinner the King asked an old man to be so kind as to give his compliments to the Marquise de Pompadour. Everyone laughed at the poor man as a simpleton. But I did not laugh.

Madame la Marquise de Pompadour(1721-1764), Letters, 1922


Maurice Quentin de Latour
Louis XV


Maurice Quentin de Latour
Marie Leszcynska

There was a small secret staircase at Versailles that led from the king's Cabinet to the second floor. There dwelled a lady named Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, who has gone down in history as the Marquise de Pompadour. Louis XV of France, the Sun King's great-grandson and his successor, frequently climbed the steps to visit her. He is said to have preferred to disappear from Cabinet meetings for trysts with his mistress. When that happened, the ministers had to sit and wait for the king until he returned as Court etiquette forbade their leaving the room without the monarch. Thus Court lackeys could be deceived into thinking the king had spent the entire time in conference with his ministers.

Witty, cultured and beautiful, Madame de Pompadour may have been the daughter of a head-groom working on a duke's estate; her mother was a beauty in her own right. Madame de Pompadour was the fourth official royal mistress. Although married to the Polish princess Maria Leszczyriska since 1725, Louis XV seems to have embarked on his first extramarital affair in 1733. The first years of his marriage had been happy ones and six daughters and a son survived the union with Maria, who was deeply humiliated by her husband's infidelity. The first three royal mistresses to be established successively at Court from 1738 spent their time giving parties at the king's expense and behaving in a way that aroused public indignation. Years afterwards the queen was still complaining of having nightmares about her husband's dreadful mistresses.

Madame la Marquise de Pompadour was altogether different. She was unlike the others. No Bacchanalian parties took place in the private apartments of this grande dame. She gave exquisite little dinners with the king and invitations to them were coveted indeed. Moreover, Madame la Marquise was anxious to be on a good footing with the queen. She visited her every day, brought her flowers and chatted with her. The Marquise was even known to have served on occasion as an intermediary between the king and queen. When she heard one day that the queen had lost a considerable sum at gambling but was afraid to tell her husband what had happened, Madame de Pompadour asked the king for the privilege of paying the queen's debts of honour herself. Submitting to fate with gentle piety, Maria Leszcyriska allowed Madame de Pompadour to take her place at the king's side. The bourgeoise, whose paternity has never been satisfactorily established, became the power behind the throne at Versailles. When it came to appointing officials and ministers and making major decisions, Louis XV always consulted his mistress.

For this reason Francois Boucher, once her drawing master and Court Painter to the king, painted a semi-official portrait of her. The seal and letter probably hint at her political ambition. That she was an accomplished singer is symbolised by the scores scattered at her feet. Even the little spaniel was not a prop provided by the painter. Her name was Mimi and she really did belong to Madame de Pompadour.


Maurice Quentin de Latour
Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour



Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour

Oil on canvas, 91 x 68 cm
Wallace Collection, London

Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour

Oil on canvas, 72,5 x 57 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Francois Boucher
Marquise de Pompadour at the Toilet-Table

Oil on canvas, 81 x 63 cm
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge


Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour



Francois Boucher
Portrait of Marquise de Pompadour




Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pampadour

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Dec. 29, 1721, Paris
died April 15, 1764, Versailles, Fr.

byname Madame De Pompadour, also called (1741–45) Jeanne-Antoinette Le Normant D'étioles influential mistress (from 1745) of the French king Louis XV and a notable patron of literature and the arts.
Early years.

Her parents were on the fringes of a class gaining in importance, speculators in the world of finance. Some of these people made immense fortunes, but many ended in the gutter if not in prison. Her father, François Poisson, involved in a black-market scandal, had to flee the country in 1725; his beautiful wife and two small children were then looked after by a more fortunate colleague, Le Normant de Tournehem. Both children were clever, and the girl was fascinating; she was educated to be the wife of a rich man. In those days rich men, even if they came from a low class, were interested in art and literature, and they expected their wives to share these interests.

By the time Mademoiselle Poisson was of an age to marry, she could hold her own in any society and had made friends with many distinguished men, including Voltaire. Le Normant de Tournehem arranged a match for her with his own nephew, Charles-Guillaume Le Normant d'Etioles, a rising young man; they had a little girl, Alexandrine. Madame d'Etioles became a shining star of Parisian society and was admired by the King himself. In 1744 Louis XV's young mistress, the Duchesse de Chateauroux, died suddenly. She was soon replaced by Madame d'Étioles, who obtained a legal separation from her husband and was created marquise de Pompadour.

Nineteenth-century historians thought that Madame de Pompadour had complete ascendancy over Louis XV. These post-Revolution writers were concerned with portraying the Bourbon monarchs as poor creatures; it is now generally admitted that Louis XV was a much more able man than he has been painted. Shy and introspective, he had difficulty in communicating with people whom he did not know well. Madame de Pompadour acted as his private secretary, but, although she gave the orders, the decisions were made by the King.

She began her reign at Versailles modestly. She was lodged in a few rooms under the roof; she set out to make herself agreeable to all those who counted for anything in the palace, beginning with Queen Marie (Maria Leszczynska). Marie could hardly have been a more unsuitable wife for the handsome, artistic, sensual, and pleasure-loving Louis XV. Eight years older than he, she was preoccupied with the welfare of her father (a deposed king of Poland), with childbearing, and with religion. After giving birth to an heir to the throne (and eight or nine other children between 1727 and 1737), she let the King understand that she had no wish to remain sexually intimate with him.

After five romantic years in her attic, Madame de Pompadour moved downstairs to a regal apartment. Louis XV now began to take other mistresses, but Madame de Pompadour was more firmly established than ever before; favours, promotions, and privileges could be obtained only through her good offices.

Artistic and political collaboration with Louis.

Her collaboration with the King was twofold, artistic and political. The artistic side was wholly successful. On her suggestion, her brother was appointed director of the King's buildings and created marquis de Marigny; the brother, the sister, and Louis XV, working in perfect harmony, planned and built the École Militaire and the Place Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) in Paris, most of the palace of Compiègne, the Petit Trianon Palace at Versailles, a new wing at the palace of Fontainebleau, and the exquisite Château de Bellevue, as well as many pavilions and summer houses. He and his mistress patronized all forms of decorative art: painters, sculptors, cabinetmakers, and craftsmen worked under the royal eye; the famous porcelain factory was built at Sèvres. Madame de Pompadour's 20 years of power marked the very apogee of taste in France. The protector of most of the authors and the editor of the Encyclopédie, she would have liked to do for literature what she did for the arts, but the King had no literary interests and disliked the intellectuals whom he knew.

The political collaboration between the King and his mistress was much less successful than the artistic, mainly because the French politicians and generals of the day were of such poor calibre. The Duc de Choiseul, by far the ablest of the ministers, was Madame de Pompadour's protégé. He was brought in to implement the famous Reversal of Alliances, which allied Francewith its old enemy Austria against the German Protestant principalities. This was a statesmanlike conception, but it was unpopular and led to the Seven Years' War, disastrous to France. Frederick the Great crushed the huge, incompetently led French and Austrian armies, while the English were driving the French out of Canada. All these defeats were laid at the door of Madame de Pompadour. She fell prey to melancholy, and soon after the end of the war she died, in the spring of 1764, probably of cancer of the lung, in her apartment at Versailles. One of her last actions was to get Louis XV's support for the revision of the Calas case, a gross miscarriage of justice in which Voltaire was interested.

Voltaire said of her:

I mourn her out of gratitude . . . Born sincere, she loved the King for himself; she had righteousness in her soul and justice in her heart; all this is not to be met with every day.

Nancy Mitford



Portraits of Marquise de Pompadour


Francois Hubert Drouais


Carle van Loo

Luois Marin Bonnet


Auguste de Saint Aubin

Jean-Marc Nattier



Alexander Roslin

Chaudon F.

see collection:

Francois Boucher



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