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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
1750, with later additions
Persistent Link


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

Oil on canvas
81.2 × 64.9 cm (31 15/16 × 25 9/16 in.)
frame: 99.8 x 84.5 cm (39 5/16 x 33 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: left: f Boucher / 1758
  • label: verso, middle stretcher bar, top, round, stamped in black ink: 136
  • inscription: verso, middle stretcher bar, black ink?: [two rows of illegible text]
  • inscription: verso, right corner of painting, slightly under canvas, red chalk: A20
  • label: verso, bottom of frame, rectangular, black ink, handwritten: 571
  • label: verso, top of frame, rectangle, printed text: [cut off] / CHENUS, EMBALLEUR / 5, Rue de la [?] Terrasse - PARIS (17e A) / R. C. Seine 27022 / Nom [handwritten:] H [?] 230 / [cutoff] ED
  • label: verso, top of frame, rectangle without corners, blue bordered, printed text: CHENUE / EMBALLAGE TRANSPORTS / [handwritten:] [illegible text, graphite] / 3, Rue de la Terrasse, PARIS
  • inscription: verso, top of round stretcher, stamped, black ink: 6


Recorded Ownership History
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, gift; to her brother, M de Vandières, later the Marquis de Marigny (by 1781). [Anonymous sale, Maciet and Haro, March 15, 1875, lot 11]. Baron Salomon Albert Anselm de Rothschild, Vienna, (c. 1920s), by descent; to his son Baron Louis de Rothschild, Vienna, sold; through [Wildenstein & Co., Paris]; to Baron Maurice de Rothschild, Pregny, Switzerland, (? - until 1952) sold; through [Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York (1952-1953) sold]; to Charles E. Dunlap (1953-1966), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1966.


Much of the Louis de Rothschild collection was confiscated during World War II and recuperated afterwards.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Charles E. Dunlap
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • André Michel, François Boucher, L'Édition d'Art, H. Piazza et Cie (Paris, 1906), p. 59, no. 1066
  • Denys Sutton, François Boucher: A Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Garden, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Company (New York, 1980), cat. no. 24, p. 42, fig. 24, repr.
  • Georges Brunel, Boucher, Trefoil Books (London, 1986), p. 245
  • Elise Goodman-Soellner, "Boucher's Madame de Pompadour at her toilette", Simiolus, Foundation for Dutch Art-Historical Publications (Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, 1987), vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 41-58, p. 43, repr. in b/w
  • Donald Posner, "Mme. de Pompadour as a Patron of the Visual Arts", The Art Bulletin, College Art Association of America (New York, NY, March 1990), vol. LXXII, no. 1, pp. 74-105, pp. 102-3, repr. in b/w as no. 21
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 57, color plate; pp. 99, 215, repr. b/w cat. no. 240
  • Richard Rand, Intimate Encounters: Love and Domesticity in Eighteenth-century France, exh. cat., Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1997), repr. p. 114 as fig. 44, under no. 13
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Helene E. Roberts, ed., Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers (Chicago, 1998), p. 325; repr. in b/w p. 322
  • Makeup! Aus der Geschichte der dekorativen Kosmetik, Druck Verlag Kettler (Bönen, Germany, 1998), repr. in color p. 108
  • Melissa Hyde, "The "Makeup" of the Marquise: Boucher's Portrait of Pompadour at Her Toilette", The Art Bulletin, College Art Association of America (New York, NY, September 2000), vol. LXXXII, no. 3, pp. 454-475, repr. in color, p. 454 and on cover
  • Elise Goodman, The Portraits of Madame de Pompadour: celebrating the femme savant, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA, 2000), repr. as plate 1
  • Angela Rosenthal, "Die Kunst des Errötens. Zur Kosmetik rassischer Differenz", Das Subjekt und die Anderen: Interkulturalität und Geschlechterdifferenz vom 18, ed. Herbert Uerlings, Erich Schmidt Verlag (Berlin, 2001), 16, pp. 95-110; repr. in b/w p. 117, abb. 7
  • Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, "Pompadour's Touch: Difference in Representation", Representations, The Regents of the University of California (Berkeley, CA, Winter 2001), no. 73, pp. 54-88, pp. 70-80; repr. in color as fig. 10, details repr. as figs. 13 and 15
  • Susan Griffin, The Book of the Courtesans, Broadway Books (New York, NY, 2001), pp. 176-177, repr. p. 158
  • John Rogister, "Imperial Decorator at Work", The Times Literary Supplement (New York, NY, November 15, 2002), no. 5198, pp. 18-19, p. 19
  • Alden Rand Gordon and Teri Hensick, "The Picture Within the Picture: Boucher's 1750 'Portrait of Madame de Pompadour' Identified", Apollo (February 2002), pp. 21-30, pp. 21-30; repr. as fig. 1
  • Xavier Salmon, Madame de Pompadour et les Arts, exh. cat., Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2002), no. 30, repr. in color, pp. 152-154
  • Prof. Colin Jones, Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress, exh. cat., National Gallery Company Limited (London, 2002), pp. 78-81, repr. in color, p. 79; details repr. pp. 2, 81
  • Christine Pevitt Algrant, Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France, Grove Press (New York, NY, 2002), repr. in color on cover
  • Yves Carlier, "Details of the Toilet Service of the Duchesse de Cadaval", Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts (2004), vol. 78, no. 1/2, repr. as fig. 2, p. 6
  • June Wulff, "A Month of Events", The Boston Globe (December 18 2005), p. N10, repr. p. N10
  • "The Fogg's French Finery", Museums Boston (Fall 2005-Winter 2006), p. 19, p. 19, repr., and repr. on cover
  • "The French Collection", The Boston Globe (December 19 2005), repr. on cover of "Sidekick" section
  • Alvin L. Clark, Jr., "To Delight the Eye": French Drawings and Paintings from the Collection of Charles E. Dunlap, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, 2005), repr. in color p. 2 as fig. 1; checklist no. 1, p. 11
  • Sally Pointer, The Artifice of Beauty: A History and Practical Guide to Perfumes and Cosmetics, Sutton Publishing Ltd. (Gloucestershire, England, 2005), p. 115; repr. in color p. 116
  • "To Delight the Eye: French Drawings and Paintings from the Collection of Charles E. Dunlap", Journal of the Print World (Winter 2006), p. 18
  • Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, Dangerous Liaisons, Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press (New York, 2006), ill. p. 37
  • Melissa Hyde and Mark Ledbury, ed., Rethinking Boucher, Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, 2006), detail on back cover
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 120, repr.
  • Susan Sidlauskas, Cézanne's Other: The Portraits of Hortense, University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2009), p. 23, fig. 7
  • Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide, "Inside the Box and Out", The Magazine Antiques (March-April 2011), pp. 124-131, p. 128, fig. 12
  • José de Los Llanos and Christiane Grégoire, Boîtes en or et objets de vertu, exh. cat., Paris-Musées (Paris, 2011), p. 28; repr. in color as fig. 7, p. 30
  • Eik Kahng, Picasso and Braque: The Cubist Experiment 1910-1912, exh. cat., Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Kimbell Art Museum (Santa Barbara, Fort Worth, 2011), p. 53, fig. 13, ill. (color)
  • Diana Scarisbrick, Portrait Jewels: Opulence and Intimacy from the Medici to the Romanovs, Thames and Hudson, Ltd. (London, 2011), pp.158, 159, 161, repr. p. 160 as fig. 173
  • Michael Glover, Great Works: Madame de Pompadour at Her Toilette, 1750-c1760 (81.2cm x 64.9cm), by François Boucher, The Independent (London, England, May 26, 2012), n.p., repr.
  • Jacoba de Jonge and Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Living Fashion: Women's Daily Wear 1750-1950 from the Jacoba de Jonge Collection, exh. cat., Lannoo Publishers (Tielt, 2012), p. 59, reproduced
  • [Reproduction only], "In the Air: Madame de Pompadour", T Magazine (New York Times), (August 21, 2016)., repr. p. 162
  • Casanova: The World of a Seductive Genius, checklist (New York, 2016), pp. 204-205
  • Spike Bucklow, Red: The Art and Science of a Colour, Reaktion Books (London, 2016), p. 16, fig. 2
  • Billy Sullivan, Still Looking: Works 1969-2016, Edition Patrick Frey (Zürich, 2016), pp. 267-268, repr. p. 267
  • Jason Farago, "How a Love of French Art Helped Shape the American Republic", The New York Times (New York, June 15, 2017)
  • [Reproduction only], "Museum News", American Fine Art Magazine, (May/June 2017)., repr. p. 30
  • Yuriko Jackall and Philippe Bordes, America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art/Lund Humphries Publishers (Washington, DC, 2017), pp. 262, 300, pl. 4, repr. p. 150 (detail)
  • Frederick Ilchman, Thomas Michie, C. D. Dickerson III, and Esther Bell, ed., Casanova: The Seduction of Europe, exh. cat., MFA Publications (Boston, 2017), pp. 124, 307, repr. p. 4, repr. p. 122 as fig. 55
  • Anna Tabakhova, Clasps: 4,000 Years of Fasteners in Jewellery, Éditions Terracol (Paris, 2017), pp. 230-231, repr. p. 230, and 231, detail
  • Mechthild Fend, Fleshing Out Surfaces, Manchester University Press (Manchester, 2017), pp. 33-35; repr. as fig. 2.5 on p. 34
  • Martine Chazal, Scent and Symbolism: Perfumed Objects and Images, exh. cat., Dixon Gallery and Gardens (Memphis, 2017), pp. 29-30, repr. p. 30 as fig.16
  • Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Francesco Buccella, Sonia Couturier, Marie-Anne Dupuy-Vachey, Melissa Hyde, Suzanne Folds McCullagh, Isabelle Mayer-Michalon, and Xavier Salmon, Tradition & Transitions: Eighteenth-Century French Art from The Horvitz Collection, exh. cat., ed. Alvin L. Clark, Jr., The Horvitz Collection (2017), pp. 436, 550-n.6
  • Cynthia Durcanin, "Casanova as Case Study: How Should Art Museums Present Problematic Aspects of the Past?", ARTnews (August 13, 2018),, accessed August 15, 2018
  • "Friendly Exchanges - Van Gogh and More", Index Magazine ([e-journal], May 30, 2018),, accessed August 15, 2018
  • Nicolas Party, Pastel: An Exhibition, exh. cat., Karma and The FLAG Art Foundation (New York, 2019), pp. 7, 10, 31, repr. p. 10
  • Sophie Lynford and Kate Smith, "Introducing the Art + Science Pathway", Index Magazine, Harvard Art Museums (May 27, 2022),, accessed July 22, 2022
  • Kirsten Tambling, "Think Pink with Madame Pompadour", Apollo Magazine, Apollo Magazine Limited (, July 20, 2022), accessed July 21, 2022
  • A. Cassandra Albinson, ed., Madame de Pompadour: Painted Pink, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (Cambridge, 2022), ill. on pp. 1, 3, 4-9, 11, 13-14 (detail); ill. on p. 16; pp. 21-22; pp. 24-31; pp. 35-37; pp. 41-42; pp. 45-46; repr. as fig. 1 on p. 49; pp. 49-51; pp. 54-55; pp. 60-61; pp. 63-64; pp. 78-79; p. 85
  • Junie Wang, The Narrative of Art: Unveiling Stories behind 21 Masterpiece Paintings, Locus Publishing (Taipei, 2022), p. 221, repr.
  • J. Samaine Lockwood, "Ann Petry's Rewriting of New England", MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, Oxford University Press (MA) and University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Fall 2023), Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 73-96, p. 86, repr. as fig. 2
  • Camran Mani and Cecilia Zhou, ed., A Collection of Perspectives: Ho Family Student Guides at the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, 2023), pp. 34-35, repr. p. 35

Exhibition History

  • François Boucher: A Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the New York Botanical Garden, Wildenstein & Company, New York, 11/12/1980 - 12/19/1980
  • Madame de Pompadour et les Arts, Musée National des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 02/14/2002 - 05/19/2002; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 06/14/2002 - 09/15/2002; National Gallery, London, 10/16/2002 - 01/12/2003
  • The Portrait, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/15/2004 - 01/09/2005
  • "To Delight the Eye": French Drawings and Paintings from the Collection of Charles E. Dunlap, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/17/2005 - 03/12/2006
  • Re-View: S424-426 Western Art from 1560 to 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 08/16/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 2220 18th-19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 04/19/2017; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/13/2017 - 05/09/2018; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/14/2018 - 09/19/2019; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/17/2019 - 01/01/2050
  • America Collects Eighteenth-Century French Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 05/21/2017 - 08/20/2017
  • Casanova's Europe: Art, Pleasure, and Power in the 18th Century, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 07/08/2018 - 10/08/2018

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project
  • ReFrame

Related Articles

Related Works

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at