Art | June 19, 2020

“We must begin by saying to ourselves that we have nothing else to do in the world but seek pleasant sensations and feelings.”

—Madame du Châtelet, natural philosopher, mathematician, and author

The rise of rococo was presided over by Louis XV’s longtime official mistress, Madame de Pompadour. With a bourgeois background and a Cinderella-like ascent to the highest echelon of early eighteenth-century French society, she faced pressure to fit in at court and had to work hard to maintain her role as controller of the king’s daily life. She used patronage and collecting art to signify her authority. Her taste for the newness of rococo, with its emphasis on fantasy and imagination, soon made it popular among the French elite. Madame de Pompadour, one of several of François Boucher’s portraits of her, captures her beauty and taste and the sumptuous appeal of rococo as she reclines languorously on an elegant sofa in her boudoir, the epitome of ease and refinement. For twenty years, she reigned unchallenged as the “godmother of rococo.”

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.