13 January 2011

Get Inspired: Madame de Pompadour

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, painted around 1756 by François Boucher. This famous portrait of Louis XV's influential mistress is in the collection of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany.

"She had a horror of common or banal objects, or ones that were often copied, with fashionable motifs; if a piece of furniture was to please her it must be unique of its sort; the same applied to all her upholstery and hangings, always specially woven for her."

SOURCE: Nancy Mitford, Madame de Pompadour (New York Review Books, 2001), page 158.


Divine Theatre said...

I cannot remember the last time I was inspired by an uppity prostitute...

Alcira Molina-Ali said...

Oh my,

What that we were all so discriminating ;)
The world would certainly be a more unique place.
Cheers, Alcira

An Aesthete's Lament said...

I think what I like about the quote is the observation about Pompadour's abhorrence of objects that were common or banal. So many of us merely settle for things instead of seeking out finer, more beautiful examples. I wouldn't go as far as having fabrics specially woven (I certainly don't have the money for that) but I see Pompadour's point in seeking out the distinguished.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Mistress, surely! Not prostitute!

A Super Dilettante said...

Nancy Mitford, Madame de Pompadour is such a beautiful book. It's a great quote by the way. Thanks for sharing.

The Swan said...

Dear Aesthete,

YOU are right in correcting that the Royal Mistress is far from a prostitute, La DuBarry was though a bit shy of the latter.

La Pompadour was the daughter of a Banker very connected to the Court, She was schooled with a bent to the Scholarly. She helped define the 18thC porcelain of Sevres, Vincennes and other industries not too mention the Ebenistes' of the period. Francois Boucher found her to be a Patron who elevated him to Court Painter...Ange-Jacques Gabriel designed the Petit Trianon for her - another discovery in the end - her brother the Marquis de Marigny was sent onto Rome when a youth to study Art and Architecture and had great influence in the Arts well after his beloved Sisters' death.

Why else would Nancy Mitford have loved her so much...and YOU!

Quatorze said...

Calling La Pompadour a prostitute is like call Bush 2 a President, technically correct, but oh so very wrong. It betrays a misunderstanding of the role of official mistress in the history of France, as well as an appalling lack of humour and bonhommie.
Mme. de Pompadour almost single-handedly created the luxury industries of France, which now serve the world. She endowed the country of France with some of its finest buildings, furnishings and art; bringing into its economy far more than she initially cost the royal exchequer, and certainly less than the assortment of dim princesses and court flunkies. We would all be immeasurably poorer had she not existed. BTW, that painting should be returned to France, and installed at Versailles.

Washington Cube said...

The Mitford "girls" have been much on my mind the past weeks: Debo on Charlie Rose, and two more books out. I think I can quote Nancy's book verbatim.

What also struck a chord with me today seems banal compared to the level that La Pomp lived, but...

Three years ago I had purchased good quality ceramic "everyday" dishware--accessories...the works. I have lots of inherited "best," but I wanted to get rid of scraps and have a new grown-up set of "daily."

Lately I've come to learn the designer has dropped making ceramics. They are "out of stock" everywhere with just odd bits turning up, and then this past week I broke two coffee mugs of the set--and I never break things so that was odd in itself.

I decided to replace them, as I can, but also to buy two of something else where my heart isn't so tied to them...yet I want something unique. This morning, I spent a long time going through sites like Horchow or Michael C. Fina...anywhere--trying to find something that met my tastes: a certain "heft," a certain liveliness in pattern, a certain uniqueness. I found possibly two, and eliminated two based solely on the extragavance of cost.

I totally "get" not settling for common or banal, and it's a tough road traveled to find beyond that...without a Monarch's bottomless purse.

Divine Theatre said...

I had no idea that politics ws to be included in polite conversation. Nonetheless, a sense of humor is a gift I would give to you, Quatorze.
Semantics is fun!

Anonymous said...

"She had a horror of common or banal objects, or ones that were often copied, with fashionable motifs; if a piece of furniture was to please her it must be unique of its sort..."

We've all seen what happens with furnishings and accessories sourced from the merchandise mart, bought in huge lots, widely distributed, lapped up and set about every house in town and country.

I'm with Madame; one of a kind, or nothing at all.

Piro Amalfitana said...

Wonderful Post (as usual). I was first introduced to Madame de Pompadour at her salon by Voltaire when she was still known as Mme d'Étiolles. Once I accompanied her to a masked Ball at Versailles. In that magical setting, dressed as a shepherdess amidst the brilliance of the Galerie des glaces, she wispered to me, "Piro, look around you, life can be so difficult, and we humans are both Animal & Spirit, therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we constantly seek to cultivate our imagination, to seek aesthetic refinement, and to make fantasy part of our lives."

That night she met the King and was soon installed in that wonderland that was the Sun King's court. She was good for him.

Penelope Bianchi said...

Bravo to your readers. Exactly why you are simply not allowed to discontinue your blog as long as there is breath in your body.


Ignorance abounds! People like you need to set them straight!
"An uppity prostitute?" Poor man (or woman) did not get his or her facts straight.

It is true that without Pompadour's amazing taste and imagination..........(the Hameau???WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AndLORDY!!!!!!!!)
We all owe her a debt of gratitude. she was an astonishing woman.......and everyone should read her latest biography.
there are many people who contributed a great deal to our level of taste and preservation of beautiful places.........in the US and all over the world.

We could and would be even worse. Plastic toothbrushes in garish colors......toys all made of plastic with the most hideous colors imaginable........ugliness at every corner and on every billboard........ewwwwwwwwwww (billboards! Yikes! they were made against the law in Santa Barbara 70 years ago! How cool is that?)

I think, Aesthete.......you would put your "Joy" dishwashing soap into an old green bottle.......like I do. I just cannot look at all those hideous loud colors and plastic containers.......(even under the sink covered by the curtain with the Swedish print......I still know they are there.........)YIKES!!!!

I love "seeking the distinguished".......Oh , please. let this not die out. We all will be living in "Inner Slobbovia" or "Outer Slobbovia!! Those hellish places predicted by Al Capp........all those years ago!

I also abhor objects that are common and banal. Why not find a fine and beautiful thing? Often; not expensive at all!!!

Lovely old bottles........$2.00 and can be refilled for years! this is not expensive. this is, as you said,"not settling for thing". Key to happiness and elegance in life......in my opinion "Do not settle for common and inferior things" Just don't!

this is not snobbish......this is simply trying to preserve beauty.......and retain standards.....and taste....banish ugliness and plastic and pollution............and also recycling! This makes sense!!!

Oh dear. Are we a vanishing breed?

I hope not!

Colette said...

Terrific quote, agree entirely with you AL...and avoiding the banal has nothing to do with dosh...witness your brilliant Gaffa tape post for example. Colette

Anonymous said...

Quatorze, you seem to need a little technical support. It appears your google button took you to Media Matters instead of the History Channel. This is a great post and interesting subject not to be infected with the germs your political persuasion.

home before dark said...

I think Madame Pompadour might agree that everything is political.