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Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the woman who became Madame de Pompadour, was of bourgeois origin, the wife of one of a wealthy tax farmers, when Louis XV first saw her one day in 1744. Attractive, intelligent, witty, a marvelous dancer, she was certainly able to amuse the bored monarch. Upon the death of his "declared mistress" in 1745, the king raised Jeanne-Antoinette to the title of Marquise de Pompadour and installed her in lavish apartments in Versailles as his "official" mistress. She remained there until her death in 1764, although she had long since ceased performing sexual favors for the king.
Instead, as a friend of Voltaire and the other prominent intellectuals of the period, Madame de Pompadour served the king with devotion and generally sound advice, especially on cultural matters. She built a private thatre at Versailles where she often performed. Her greatest passion was for building and decorating houses, and in that capacity she made great use of Boucher.
In this delicate painting, which may have been designed as a present for her brother, Boucher catches his patron in a light, casual air. Her costume could almost be that of one of nymphs or goddesses she liked to impersonate on the stage. Here, as in most of Boucher's portraits of her, he has worked n a floral motif, undoubtedly reflecting Madam de Pompadour's own love for flowers.