Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Immortal Companion: Madame de Pompadour

Although I was about to kill my dog today when I found my new shoes out of their box (and bag!) and on the rug; box destroyed, shoes unharmed (thank the fashion gods!)...I will still proceed with my planned entries on man's best friend, even if mine is in the doghouse right now.

Originally, I had planned to go on about an English bloke and his favourite dog but then this whole event got me thinking, "how many times did this happen to Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour?" Just picturing those fabulous heels in pieces can make a fashion-conscious art historian tear up. These two notorious Rococo ladies were both very fond of their pooches. However, Pompadour was usually portrayed with hers.

Madame de Pompadour, or Jean-Antoinette, was depicted with her beloved pooches in most of her portraits. Of course, the dog is a symbol of loyalty so putting them in her portrait could have also served a dual purpose of displaying her loyalty to the king (and boy was she loyal!) and immortalizing her pet. Her two most well known ones were named Mimi and Inés. It was even rumoured that she would deck her dogs in golden collars that were nicer than some of the courtiers' own jewels.

I am pretty sure that in this particular painting by Boucher, Jean-Antoinette is depicted with her own dog, although I wish I knew which one, Mimi or Inés. The fuzzy one in question chaperones his mistress on the garden bench she placed him on while she poses. Notice the collar. He is a papillon, a breed that was portrayed more than once by master artists and loved not only by Jean-Antoinette but also Marie-Antoinette. Although Spanish in origin, the papillions acquired their French name, meaning butterfly, due to their foxy ears which look like butterfly wings. Unlike other portraits of Jean which exert her education, good breeding, and how hot she is; this portrayal shows the marquise in a rococo-girl wonderland. She is enjoying being out in her in garden with her papillon wearing a FABULOUS gown. She has nothing to prove in this picture except perhaps her great wardrobe, her Enlightenment, and how good she and her loyal companion look together.


  1. i love that portait of madame de pompadour...i love it so much that i ve beein trying to draw it for the past 4 years, but its just too difficult!!! her gown has so much little details....its just almost imposible for me at least :(
    here is the link:

  2. Wonderful post- It really is a beautiful painting. She looks gorgeous and her devoted companion seems to be looking up at her admiringly too:)

  3. Gosh I have studied that painting so many times and never even noticed her dog!
    Dogs can be such faithful and loving companions but it is always best to keep fancy footwear well out of reach. Thank goodness your pooch did not wreck havoc with your shoes.

  4. My dog likes to tease me by pretending to wreck my shoes. She picks one up and runs away, and if I don't chase her, she stands there and shakes it, pretending that she's tearing it. Heehee! By the way, your shoes are great!

  5. @cota- That looks gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. Can you imagine painging it in person with a weary sitter? Goodness!

    @Lucy- He sure is! Many portraits with dogs and owners have the pooches gazes at their owners. All pictures of my dog and I, we're trying to hold him in the frame.

    What I have learned from this escapade is dogs and new shoes do not mix...even if the dog is well past puppy hood (rolls eyes)

  6. One of my favorite images of Madame P, for sure. I'm relieved those cute shoes are okay, but I still feel an inner cringe. I never know when my dog will strike next, but all the horrible things that happen around my house I can generally put down to one of the cats. They have truly Machiavellian minds.

    Did you see the huge hardback book on dogs in art when you were at the Wallace Collection? It was beautiful, but I didn't want to schlep it around all day OR have to carry it in my suitcase. But it sure was a gorgeous book.

    And you were right--Perdita AND the miniature of Bess and Georgiana weren't on display :(

  7. They have truly Machiavellian minds.How true that statement is!
    I did see that book at the Wallace Collection and went through the same thought process as you probably did. They have way too many good things in their museum shop. It's good to have you back; I'm sure you had the most fabulous time!