The guitar

The Marquise was particularly fond of music. Considered an “ornamental” art, it is suggested here by the musical scores and the ten-string baroque guitar on the armchair in the background. 

Guitars became very popular in the seventeenth century; they were manufactured by specialist stringed-instrument makers such as the renowned Voboam family in Paris.

Guitare, Voboam, Paris, Cité de la musique

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The art of music is evoked by a musical score in the Marquise’s hands and another that lies on the armchair in the background, next to a baroque guitar.

Madame de Pompadour studied music from an early age. She took singing lessons from Pierre Jélyotte, the favorite tenor of the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. She was also a skilled harpsichord player. To entertain Louis XV, she gave many performances and concerts at receptions held in the Théâtre des Petits Appartements at Versailles.

Pierre Jélyotte in the Role of the Nymph Plataea in Jean-Philippe Rameau's Comic Opera Platée ou Junon Jalouse, Charles-Antoine Coypel, Paris, Musée du Louvre

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The books

The books on the console table were carefully chosen to reflect the Marquise’s interest in the new ideas of her time. From left to right, we can see:

Il Pastor Fido (The Faithful Shepherd)

This seventeenth-century play by Battista Guarini remained popular until the late eighteenth century.
Its presence alludes to Louis XV’s passion for hunting and the Marquise’s love of the theater. In 1748, she had the Ambassadors’ Staircase at Versailles converted into a small playhouse.

La Henriade

Voltaire’s poem La Henriade was written in praise of Henri IV and of tolerance.
Voltaire, who also wrote the Lettres philosophiques (Philosophical Letters) criticizing the French monarchy, was hardly popular with Louis XV.

De l’esprit des lois (The Spirit of the Laws)

This work of political theory by Montesquieu was published in 1748 and banned by the Catholic Church in 1751.
It must have taken some courage for the Marquise to openly take the side of authors who advocated the separation of powers and constitutional monarchy, in total opposition to the absolute monarchy of Louis XV.

The Encyclopédie

Volume IV of Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie is depicted here despite the fact that it had been banned by royal decree in 1752.


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The portfolio of drawings

The portfolio of drawings evokes one of the Marquise’s pastimes. She studied drawing with François Boucher and made many engravings of the master’s works.

Suite d'estampes d'après les pierres gravées de Guay. Génie militaire, engraving by Madame de Pompadour after François Boucher, Paris, Musée du Louvre

The museum holds a collection of etchings made by the Marquise—some fifty-two plates reproducing the gemstones engraved by Jacques Guay. The latter, a protégé of the Marquise, was appointed engraver to the king in 1755.

Suite d'estampes gravées par Madame la marquise de Pompadour d'après les pierres gravées de Guay. Frontispice, Madame de Pompadour, Paris, musée du Louvre

The Marquise also owned an extensive collection of prints.

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Stone engraving/glyptic art

In front of the books is an engraving entitled Le graveur de pierres fines à son travail (“The gemstone engraver at work”) taken from the Traité des Pierres Gravées by Pierre-Jean Mariette, a great collector of prints and drawings.
La Tour went so far as to attribute the engraving to the Marquise, signing it Pompadour sculpsit. Its presence evokes the Marquise’s fondness for glyptics, the art of engraving gemstones.

"The Gemstone Engraver at Work" from the Traité des pierres gravées by Pierre-Jean Mariette, engraving by the Comte de Caylus after Edme Bouchardon's drawing, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

The Marquise practiced both intaglio (incised) and cameo (relief) engraving.

Portrait of Louis XV (cameo), Marquise de Pompadour, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Madame de Pompadour's seal: Love Sacrificing to Friendship, Jacques Guay, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France


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The terrestrial globe

The terrestrial globe, on a gilt wood stand, is positioned to show France at its center. It reflects the Marquise’s interest in science.

In her library at the Château de Crécy, Madame de Pompadour had two magnificent terrestrial and celestial globes which had been presented to Louis XV shortly before by Didier Robert de Vaugondy, a renowned cartographer and globe maker who was geographer to the king.

Globes, Didier Robert de Vaugondy, Chartres, Musée des Beaux-Arts 

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