Pompadour’s Grace

Often laughing, visibly less calculating, liable to burst out with unpredictable enthusiasm, she was like a breath of fresh air.  

Susan Griffin on Madame de Pompadour

From her ebullience, generosity, humor, and courage, I am certain I would have been charmed by this woman famous for being Louis XV’s favorite.  Beyond the shallow gossip of her status as mistress, Susan Griffin’s describes the depth of a woman who inspired a monarchy and this series of photographs:

Madame de Pompadour was able to negotiate the transformation of herself from commoner to favorite with uncommon grace.  In bringing a more informal and open manner of expression to Versailles, she foreshadowed what was to be a transformation not only of the court but eventually all of society.  Her displays of emotion, her frankness, her loud “forthright” voice, her free laugh, and her familiar language were at odds with standard behavior at Versaiiles.  The ladies in court only giggled or smothered their laughter and everyone habitually hid or dampened their feelings, even when what was felt was joy.  No wonder there was so much intrigue.  The atmosphere of constant jockeying for position that surrounds monarchies and indeed every powerful leader was only made more acidic by by the fact that anger could not be expressed openly.  Hence snide remarks, subtle inferences, small praise, dismissive gestures, indeed every possible form of passive assault characterized the social life of the court.  No wonder that Pompadour’s manner appealed to the king.

The painter Francois Boucher captured her ebullience well.  The spirit that enlivens her rose-cheeked face spills out into the room.  Rendered with colors that are vibrant and soft at the same time, her dresses appear less to hang than to ripple, and the same vibrant energy seems to bless all that surrounds her.  There was a strong concordance between her way of being and his way of seeing.  Not only did they prefer the same bright pastel colors, they both liked flowers.  She was an avid gardener and he embellished canvasses, tapestries, and vases with flowery forms.

As frivolous as both the painter and the mistress may seem today, together they invented an ingenuous version of grace, one that allowed them to erase conflicts that otherwise might have erased them.

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© Sharon Birke

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Photography for the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Powerful Goddess is a trademark of DoubleSmart LLC


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