One of the most famous mistresses in French history, Madame de Pompadour won Louis XV’s attention and influence after she disguised herself as a shepherdess during a masquerade ball. She quickly became the royal mistress, but not without first getting the King to purchase the royal title of marquise for her. Her influence in fashion, art and politics cemented her reputation for posterity; here are some things we should thank her for.
When Mme. de Pompadour was nine years old, a fortune-teller predicted she would become mistress to the King. The prediction secured her an education and various music and singing lessons. She opened her own Salon and was joined by many important French philosophers, such as Voltaire. When Mme. de Pompadour became royal mistress, she convinced Louis XV to lift the ban he had imposed on the Encyclopaedia by cleverly disagreeing with him and remarking that they could settle their argument by looking it up in the Encyclopaedia. In turn, the King allowed for the Encyclopedia to be written and Mme. de Pompadour became its principal patron.
As an accomplished woman and trendsetter, Mme. de Pompadour had a good eye for interior design. She was responsible for the development of Sèvres, which became one of the most famous porcelain manufacturers in Europe. The tea services, vases and inkstands it produced were so expensive that only a select few could afford them. The manufacturer was established to surpass the quality of Meissen and Dresden porcelain and still exists today, albeit with more modern designs.
Bouncy and soft, pom-poms are puffy pieces of fabric that make any outfit light and joyful. Although Mme. de Pompadour did not technically invent the pom-pom, she certainly made it popular. Her hairstyle featured defined twists of curls that were arranged in rows across the front and top of the head, and commonly included an ornament such as pom-poms, ribbons, pearls, jewels or decorative flowers. As royal mistress she gained various enemies at court, including Louis XV’s daughters who nicknamed her ‘Madame Pompom.’
The story behind the oval shaped Marquise diamond can be traced to Mme. de Pompadour’s beautiful lips. According to legend, Louis XV wanted a diamond shaped after his mistress’s sensuous lips and commissioned his court jewellers to create a jewellery item set with diamonds as a present.
The basic concept of the pompadour hairstyle is hair swept upwards from the face, and worn high over the forehead. It gained its reputation as it was the preferred hairstyle of Mme de Pompadour and the French female court circle of the 18th century. The style was revived in the turn of the 20th century as part of the Gibson Girl look, and in the 1950s with the rock and roll look. Elvis Presley’s gelled swept hair remains the most famous example.