L'Alliance de ... faitte en may 1756 par l'abbé de Bernis
(Alliance between ... made in May 1756 by l'abbé de Bernis)
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A smiling woman with rouged cheeks stands on the second rung of a ladder. She is shown in right profile. She wears a green "robe à la française" which parts at the waist to reveal a pink skirt beneath. Pink ribbons decorate her sleeve and are tied about her neck in a bow. Pink flowers ornament her powdered hair. A watch on a chain hangs from her waist.
The ladder on which she stands rests against the shoulders of a tall thin man whose face almost touches hers. His left hand supports the ladder and his right rests against her back. He is dressed in a lacy shirt, whose cuffs poke out from the sleeves of a blue collarless coat. The edges of a terracotta coloured waistcoat are just visible beneath the coat. He wears black breeches, white stockings and oversized black shoes, which give his figure a slightly comical aspect. His hair - probably a wig - is smooth over his scalp, but puffs out voluminously at the back.
- The Treaty of Versailles, signed on 1 May 1756, saw the formalisation of an alliance between erstwhile enemies, France and Austria. This was the foundation for a wholesale reshuffling of international alliances, known as the ‘Reversal of the Alliances’ or the ‘Diplomatic Revolution’. As part of the same process, France’s old ally Prussia signed a pact with England, which also entered into friendly relations with Russia.
- The initiative for the Versailles treaty came from Austria. Empress Maria Theresa instructed George Adam, comte de Starhemberg, ambassador in Paris from 1755 to 1766, to make approaches regarding a defensive alliance. On the French side, a good deal of the legwork was done by king Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, allied with the abbé (soon cardinal) de Bernis. The marquise acted both on her own behalf and as intermediary for the king and his ministers.
- The transformation of Austria from arch-enemy to close ally was regarded as highly suspicious by court factions and by much of the public. Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin reflects this scepticism in this image, making the treaty appear to result from close if (on height grounds) rather ridiculous personal relations between Pompadour and Starhemberg. The portrait of Starhemberg that Alexandre Roslin painted in 1761 showed the sitter wearing a wig with long hair falling behind his back – a detail which is here taken to excess (illustrated in “Alexandre Roslin”, 2008, p. 34). The ladder up which Madame de Pompadour climbs also marks her out as a social climber – a grave charge in Charles-Germain’s view of the world. Despite his friendly personal relations with Pompadour, he is savagely critical of her within the confines of the “Livre de Caricatures” (e.g. 675.132, 675.317).
Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)
187 x 132
L'Alliance de .... faite en may 1756. par L'abbé de B
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin below image, in ink
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, below image, after first inscription, in ink; this inscription completes the last word of the first.
Alliance de M.me de Pompadour et de M.r de Stahremberg pour la / France et l'Autriche
Inscribed by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, below image in ink; the 'me' of M.me, and the 'r' of 'M.r' are both written in superscript.
Top left corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Alliance between ... made in May 1756 by l'abbé de Bernis
Alliance between Madame de Pompadour and Monsieur de Starhemberg for France and Austria
Underdrawing, centre of page, in graphite; the figure of a woman positioned half way down the ladder is visible
- Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises. 675.1-389
- Waddesdon (National Trust)
- Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957
- Colin Jones; Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress; London; National Gallery Company; 2002; p. 121
- Colin Jones, The Other Cheek, History Today, 61, November 2011, 18-24; Emily Richardson; p. 22
- Colin Jones, Presidential Address. French Crossings. II. Laughing over Boundaries, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 21, December 2011, 1-38; p. 34
- Aileen Ribeiro; active 1984-2011; Fashioning the feminine; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 233-248; pp. 233-4
- John Shovlin; War, diplomacy and faction; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 95-116; p. 108, fig. 4.5
- Julian Swann; Politics and religion; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 117-150; pp. 138-9
- Richard Taws; The precariousness of things; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 327-347; p. 332
- Richard Waddington; Louis XV et le renversement des alliances: préliminaires de la Guerre de Sept Ans, 1754-1756; Paris; Firmin-Didot et Cie; 1896
- Jean Sudreau, Un Cardinal Diplomate: François-Joachim de Pierre de Bernis, Travaux et recherches de la faculté de droit et des sciences économiques de Paris. Serie 'Sciences historiques', xv, 1969, 95-114
- Thomas Kaiser, Madame de Pompadour and the Theaters of Power, French Historical Studies, xix, Fall 1996, 1025-44
- Rachel Akpabio, Madame de Pompadour at Waddesdon Manor, Apollo, clv, 2002, 27-31
- Magnus Olausson, Xavier Salmon; Alexandre Roslin, 1718-1793; Château de Versailles, 19 février-18 mai 2008; Paris; Réunion des musées nationaux; 2008
- Rosamond Hooper-Hamersley; The Hunt after Jeanne-Antoinette de Pompadour: Politics, Art and the French Enlightenment; Lexington Press; 2011
Subject person and role
- Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour, Pictured
- Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour, Named in text
- George Adam, prince de Starhemberg, Pictured
- George Adam, prince de Starhemberg, Named in text
- François-Joachim de Pierre, cardinal de Bernis, Named in text
Person as Subject
- Pompadour, Madame de (b.1721, d.1764)
- Starhemberg, George Adam, prince de (b.1724, d.1807)
- Bernis, François-Joachim de Pierre, cardinal de (b.1715, d.1794)
- Allegory & Personifications/Political
- Everyday Life/Relationships/Courtship & Marriage
- Work & Occupations/Social Rank/Nobility
- Work & Occupations/Religious Vocations/Cardinal
- Work & Occupations/Governance & Public Administration/Ambassador
- Objects/Clothing & Personal Effects/Wig