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Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour, was Boucher's patron, and as numerous paintings show, one of his favorite subjects. He painted nearly a dozen pictures of Madam de Pompadour, not counting the numerous Diana's and Venus's which reflect her facial features.
This picture, from 1756, shows Madam de Pompadour not in her role as mistress to Louis XV, but as an intellectual and supporter of the Enlightenment. She is posed as if interrupted in reading a book, and her writing table nearby is fully supplied, with a quill inserted in the ink well. The room is scrumptiously decorated, with heavy damask curtains. In the rear is a handsomely carved bookcase, further evidence of the lady's intellectual abilities.
Boucher is most famous for his nudes, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise to find Madam de Pompadour in this portrait so fully clothed. Obviously one reason for that is to give the artist full range to paint thia beautiful dress, with its rose-frills and pleats. Boucher clearly idealized Pompadour almost like a porcelain doll and pays conspicuous attention to the ample silken costume, reflections of an opulence, somewhat contradictory to the "age of reason" which is the overt message of this gorgeous picture.