City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764)
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour (French: [pɔ̃.pa.duːʁ]; 29 December 1721 – 15 April 1764), commonly known as Madame de Pompadour, was a member of the French court and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1751, and remained influential as court favourite until her death.
Pompadour took charge of the king’s schedule and was a valued aide and advisor, despite her frail health and many political enemies. She secured titles of nobility for herself and her relatives, and built a network of clients and supporters. She was particularly careful not to alienate the Queen, Marie Leszczyńska. On 8 February 1756, the Marquise de Pompadour was named as the thirteenth lady in waiting to the queen, a position considered the most prestigious at the court, which accorded her with honors.
Pompadour was a major patroness of architecture and decorative arts, especially porcelain. She was a patroness of the philosophes of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire. Hostile critics at the time generally tarred her as a malevolent political influence, but historians are more favorable, emphasizing her successes as a patroness of the arts and a champion of French pride. Art historian Melissa Hyde argues that the critiques of Pompadour were driven by fears over the overturning of social and gender hierarchies that Pompadour's power and influence, as a woman who was not born into the aristocracy, represented.