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A painted portrait of an extravagantly dressed woman seated at a table, applying pink powder blush to her cheeks.

This oval-shaped painted portrait depicts a pale-skinned woman, who stares directly at the viewer. She is seated on a chair at a table with a mirror and an array of flowers, a blue ribbon, and cosmetic tools laid in front of her. Her right hand holds a small gold container of pink blusher powder near her chest. Her left hand is raised toward her face, holding a small gold-handled brush with pink pigment on the tip. Her cheeks glow with the pink powder and her lips are glossy with a matching pink. Her grey hair is carefully arranged with small curls around her ears and small blue flowers are woven into the hair above her forehead. She wears a lace-trimmed white peignoir over her shoulders, tied with a pink ribbon, and a matching dress with pink ribbons and voluminous lace sleeves. A bracelet on her right arm shows a cameo of Louis XV.

Gallery Text

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour (1721–1764), became the official mistress of Louis XV in 1745. Numerous portraits of her were subsequently commissioned; this oval painting is one of the most unusual. In its early decades, the work was reshaped multiple times, modifications that are recorded in the X-radiograph below. The painting was initially a rectangular bust-length portrait—its original size is outlined in dotted line in the image. Seams indicating its first dimensions are also visible on the surface of the painting.

Some years later, Boucher enlarged the rectangular portrait by adding strips of canvas on all four sides. These new dimensions, outlined in solid line in the radiograph, enabled the artist to transform the painting from a bust-length portrait to a larger toilette scene. Boucher prepared these additional strips of canvas with a lead white–based priming, which appears bright white on the radiograph because it is dense and more opaque. In contrast, the low-density earth pigments used to prepare the original, smaller canvas are darker.

The painting underwent a final modification in the last decades of the 18th century. Reconfiguring it to its current oval form—outlined in dashed line, below—involved cutting away its four corners and adding curved canvas pieces to its top, bottom, and right edges. The curved additions appear dark on the radiograph, which again indicates that these pieces were primed with low-density earth pigments. The difference in materials between the first alteration and the second speaks to a shift in painting techniques and artists’ preferences over the course of the 18th century.

[image of x-radiograph]

Identification and Creation

Object Number
François Boucher, French (Paris 1703 - 1770 Paris)
Pompadour at Her Toilette
Other Titles
Former Title: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour
Work Type
album folio, painting
1750, with later additions
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century