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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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