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16 Apr 2022

Annie
Wenstrup

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Full Moon

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Apr 30th

Madame de Pompadour
to François Boucher

Apr 1st

After François Boucher's

The Toilette of Venus (1751)

               Although the salon will mock

               me, my portrait

               on the gallery wall,


               although they’ll whisper

               she’s not beautiful anymore,

               her skin is sallow, she’s gaunt,


               and although it’s true—

               paint me as I was.

               Beautiful.


               Why wouldn’t you?

               I’ve played a shepherdess,

               a nymph, a king.


               I’ve lost interest

               in looking coyly

               at the ground.


               That’s why I stopped praying—


               the humility. I won’t ask

               for grace while shadows

               cloak my face.

Behind the poem...

Madame de Pompadour was Louis the XV’s mistress, friend and political advisor. A patron of the arts, she frequently sat for François Boucher, who also used her as a model for his painting The Toilette of Venus. When this work was unveiled, Boucher was criticised for flattering de Pompadour with his depiction. I look at her portrait today and marvel at how this woman navigated patriarchal constraints and created a life where she exercised so much agency – including over her own public image. Then again, it’s easy to see how such constraints affected her: from the gossip she endured while alive, to how she’s depicted in contemporary biographies.