Sketch for a Portrait of Madame de Pompadour (1721 - 1764)

On display in:

Starhemberg Room

Order image © All images subject to copyright

Artist or maker

Boucher, François (b.1703, d.1770)


c 1750

dated stylistically

Place of production

  • Paris, France


  • oil on canvas

Type of object

  • paintings

Accession number


Rectangular oil painting, full-length portrait of Madame de Pompadour. Madame de Pompadour is shown standing in an interior. She leans back with her right foot forward and her left hand on a dressing table to the right. Her body turns slightly to the right, and her head is turned in three-quarter profile to the left. She is wearing a green taffeta dress with large panniers, a robe à la française. The bodice is trimmed with ribbons, and the elbow-length sleeves with frilly lace. A flower posy with roses is pinned to the right side of her bodice; she also wears a garland of flowers around her neck. In her right hand she holds a large straw hat, and in her left hand, a châtelaine. To the right is her dressing table with a frilly cover, and a gold-framed mirror propped up against a pier-glass. In front of the table, some prints and music scores appear on the ground. To the left, there is a velvet armchair with a small dog below. Behind, to the left, there is a bookcase surmounted by a clock and a porcelain vase.

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (1721-1764), marquise de Pompadour was the acknowledged mistress -"'maîtresse-en-titre" - of king Louis XV from 1745 until her death. She used works of art to captivate the king and to cultivate her own image. François Boucher’s portraits were central to her self-presentation.


This oil study was made in preparation for one of Boucher’s portraits of Madame de Pompadour, now lost. The final composition showed her at an easel. This spirited sketch may have offered an alternative. Pompadour is glimpsed as she prepares to go out. She holds a hat in one hand. With her other hand she picks up a bracelet from the dressing table. The pearl bracelet with a portrait of the king is familiar from other portraits. It is emblematic of the relationship upon which the sitter’s status depended.

One foot is poised mid-step. Pompadour glances away from the mirror, as though hurrying out unaware of the viewer. The little dog watches, maybe anticipating a walk. The jumble of ribbons and cosmetics on the dressing table enforce the privacy and intimacy of the setting. The sheet music, books and drawing materials on the ground evoke the sitter’s accomplishments. Their disarray suggests use.

Boucher used free and rapid brushstrokes to conjure up the forms and textures of Madame de Pompadour’s clothes and surroundings. In many areas the canvas shows through the thinly applied paint. However, the paint of the face, breast and arms was applied more thickly, with fewer visible brushstrokes. The composition makes a flattering link between the smoothness and luminosity of Pompadour’s skin and that of the mounted oriental porcelain vase behind her.

Juliet Carey, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm) / weight (mg)

625 x 460
592 x 445 - sight

Signature & date

not signed or dated


[verso, on canvas, lower left, black chalk]

Left of Grey Dining Room doors.
[verso, on stretcher, centre left to centre, pencil]


75 bis
Portrait de Mme
de Pompadour
[verso, on stretcher, upper right, typed]

[verso, on canvas, upper right, handwritten in pen]

N.B. This label is to be affixed to the frame (not the canvas) of the picture.
Royal Accademy of Arts 19 [54-55 Eighteenth Century]
Artist ... [Boucher]
Title ... [Oil sketch, Madame De Pompadour.] Ser No. [526.]
Name and Address of Owner} [James de Rothschild, Esq. D.M.C. Waddesdon, Aylesbury, Bucks.]
(Please correct any particulars not properly given.)
Printed label
[verso, on frame, upper left, printed and typed label]

French Gallery
Left entering from vestibule
[verso, on frame, lower left, handwritten in ink]

[French Gallery
panel right ?
Dining Room doors]
75 bis
Portrait de mme de Pompadour
[verso, on frame, lower right, label typed and handwritten in ink]

Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5DN
Telephone 0171-839 3321
EXHIBITION: Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress
ARTIST: François Boucher
TITLE: Madame de Pompadour
OWNER: Waddesdon Manor, Rothschild Collection
Printed label
[verso, lower left, on frame]

Printed label
[verso, on frame, lower left, old handwritten label, indecipherable]



  • Owned by Richard Williams Esq. (d. 1862), of Rutland Gate, London; sold in the Richard Williams sale, Christie's, London, 10 May 1862, lot 41, as 'Madame du Barri'; acquired by the dealer Annesly for 32 guineas (along with lot 42, for 30 guineas - now Louvre RF 1242); acquired by Baron Wilhelm von Rothschild (b.1828, d.1901); inherited by his wife Baroness Mathilde von Rothschild (b.1832, d.1924); by descent to her son-in-law Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); inherited by his wife Dorothy de Rothschild (b.1895, d.1988); then to a Rothschild Family Trust.

Exhibition history

  • 'European Masters of the Eighteenth Century', Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1954-1955, no. 468, loaned by Mr James de Rothschild
  • 'Madame de Pompadour et les arts/ Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress', Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 14 February - 19 May 2002, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 14 June - 15 September 2002; National Gallery, London, 16 October 2002 - 12 January 2003


  • Waddesdon (Rothschild Family)
  • On loan since 1995


  • Pierre de Nolhac; Boucher: premier peintre du roi.; Paris; H Floury; 1925; p. 114.
  • Alexandre Ananoff; Francois Boucher; vol. 2; Paris; La Bibliothèque des Arts; 1976; pp. 192-193, cat. no. 520, fig. 1447.
  • Alastair Laing; Francois Boucher 1703-1770; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, February 17 - May 4 1986; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, May 27 - August 17 1986; Grand Palais, Paris, September 19 1986 - January 5, 1987; Paris; Réunion des musées nationaux; 1986; pp. 253-254, fig. 170; dated c. 1750.
  • Madeleine Delpierre; Se vêtir au XVIIIe siècle; Paris; Adam Biro; 1996; p. 67.
  • Elise Goodman; The Portraits of Madame de Pompadour: celebrating the femme savante; Los Angeles; University of California Press; 2000; pp. 15, 145, n. 25.
  • Melissa Hyde, The "Makeup" of the Marquise: Boucher's Portrait of Pompadour at Her Toilette, The Art Bulletin, 82, 2000, 453-475; pp. 464, 468, fig. 15.
  • Xavier Salmon, Helge Seifert, Humphrey Wine; Madame de Pompadour et les arts; Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles, 14 février-19 mai 2002; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 14 juin-15 septembre 2002; National Gallery, London, 16 octobre 2002-12 janvier 2003; Paris; Réunion des musées nationaux; 2002; pp. 146-147, no. 26, ill.
  • Jean Louis Gaillemin, La Marraine du Rococo, Connaissance des Arts, 591, February 2002, 38-47; p. 43, ill.
  • Colin Jones; Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress; London; National Gallery Company; 2002; p. 14, fig. 1.
  • Ulrich Leben; Object Design in the Age of Enlightenment. The History of the Royal Free Drawing School in Paris; Los Angeles; Getty Publications; 2005; p. 39, ill.
  • Melissa Hyde; Making up the rococo: François Boucher and his critics; Los Angeles; Getty Research Institute; 2006; p. 118, fig. 13.
  • Hans Sonntag, 'Ines' und 'Mimi', die lieblingshunde der Marquise de Pompadour - 2008 aus Meissener Porzellan zu neuem Leben erweckt, Keramos, 200, April 2008, 21-30; p. 21, fig. 1.
  • Muriel Carre-Gazancon; 'The Sacred Rite of Pride: The art of the toilette in eighteenth-century France' (unpublished MA thesis; University of Glasgow, Christie's; September 2009; p. 49, fig. 28.
  • José de Los Llanos, Christiane Grégoire; Boîtes en or et objets de vertu; Paris; Paris Musees; 2011; p. 14.
  • Andrea Weisbrod; Madame de Pompadour und die Macht der Inszenierung; Berlin; AvivA Verlag; 2014; ill.

Related files

Other details

Subject person

  • Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour, Sitter