by Maria Derkina
A painting by Jean-Marc Nattier was commissioned by the court in 1746 shortly after her introduction as mistress. The kneeling piece was intended only for the king and shows the 26-year-old Madame de Pompadour in the role of Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, which is popular among aristocratic ladies and symbolizes female innocence and independence.
She is in nature; a tree and a sky covered by dark clouds appear behind her. The mistress wears a white robe made of silk and a blue cloak, also made of shiny fabric. The precious fur of her hunting trophy is loosely tied around her waist. In her left hand, which she rests on a quiver of arrows, she holds a bow - both the usual attributes of the goddess of the hunt. Her head is slightly tilted to the left side. These minimal movements make her posture seem unforced and relaxed. Her oval face radiates softness and gentleness. The flirtatious blush on Pompadour's porcelain-white skin gives the sitter a youthful appearance. This delicate effect is underscored by a pastel color scheme.
The fact that Pompadour, who came from the bourgeoisie, was painted by the most respected portraitists of the aristocracy testifies to her successful integration into courtly society, in which the courtiers henceforth had to treat her as their equal. Here she takes up the existing tradition of depicting aristocratic women as Olympian deities, but will also break with it in the future.
Jean Marc Nattier - Madame de Pompadour
Oil on canvas, 1746, 102 × 82 cm, Palace at Versaille