WCW: Marquise de Pompadour

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Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise of Pompadour (1721-64) started life as the illegitimate daughter of a well-to-do Frenchman, married her guardian’s nephew, started attending salons, met King Louis XV and became his official “maitresse en titre” (titled mistress). She was a patron of the arts and architecture, and when her relationship with Louis ended she stayed on as a good friend and personal adviser until her death. She’s probably THE second-best known style icon (after Marie-Antoinette) of the 18th century, so let’s take a look at her on screen!

Monsieur Beaucaire (1924)

Rudolph Valentino as a French duke who goes undercover as a barber; French actress Paulette Duval plays la Pompadour.

1924 Monsieur Beaucaire

Loving Valentino’s chevrons!

Madame Pompadour (1927)

Dorothy Gish (sister of Lillian) plays the marquise in this very loose biopic.

1927 Madame Pompadour

Lots of shiny satin!

Marquis d’Eon, der Spion der Pompadour (1928)

Aka “Spy of Madame Pompadour,” and focused on the transgender French spy, the chevalier d’Eon. A German silent film with Agnes Esterhazy as Pompadour.

1928 Marquis d'Eon, der Spion der Pompadour

Very pretty.

Madame Pompadour (1931)

Another German film, Anny Ahlers played the famed mistress.

1931 Madame Pompadour

Check that 1930s eye makeup!

Un caprice de la Pompadour (1931)

A French version of the German “Madame Pompadour,” this time starring Marcelle Denya.

1931 Un caprice de la Pompadour

Aaaand that’s a dumpy bustline.

Voltaire (1933)

A film centered on the Enlightenment author, with madame de Pompadour (Doris Kenyon) as his patroness.

1933 Voltaire

SUCH 1930s hair but I love it!

1933 Voltaire

All those little pincurls! And note the graduated bows on the dress neckline (and sleeves).

Die Pompadour (1935)

Apparently the Germans like the marquise (Käthe von Nagy)!

1935 Die Pompadour

They went heavy with the mascara, I see.

Der König lächelt – Paris lacht (1936)

Aka “The Postman from Longjumeau.” A musical comedy in which a postilion is recruited by Pompadour (Thekla Ahrens) to join her opera company.

1936 Der König lächelt - Paris lacht

Let’s Go Up the Champs-Élysées (1938)

French director Sacha Guitry made a number of episodic films about French history; this one focuses on the most famous street in Paris. Jeanne Boitel (Shadow of the Guillotine) plays Pompadour.

1938 Let's Go Up the Champs-Élysées

Looks like the Boucher painting where she’s got the big sleeves…

1938 Let's Go Up the Champs-Élysées

Does Louis have… birds? bats? on his coat?

Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)

Another take on this comedy, this time starring Bob Hope. Hillary Brooke – Blanche Ingram in 1943’s Jane Eyre – plays Pompadour.

1946 Monsieur Beaucaire

Sorry for all the watermarks, sometimes it’s the best we can do.

Fanfan la Tulipe (1952)

A comedy/swashbuckler about a guy who is recruited into the French army with promises that he can marry the king’s daughter. Geneviève Page plays la Pompadour.

1952 Fanfan la Tulipe

Loving the riding habit, even if the elbow ruffles are incongruous.

Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954)

Another episodic film by Sacha Guitry, which I’d REALLY like to see (hit me up if you have a source!); this one focuses on episodes in the palace of Versailles’s history. Micheline Presle plays the marquise to Jean Marais’s Louis XV.

1954 Royal Affairs in Versailles

Not sure what’s up with that fabric, but I like the tete de mouton hair!

1954 Royal Affairs in Versailles

This dress seems very Happy Hands at Home.

Le secret du Chevalier d’Eon (1960)

Very loosely based on the famous transgender French spy. Simone Valère plays Pompadour.

1960 Le secret du Chevalier d'Eon

Bust darts or princess seams: discuss!

Madame Quinze (1969)

I BELIEVE this was a French TV show, but perhaps it was a stage play? It was developed by the Comédie Française, hence the confusion. It focuses on Louis and Pompadour’s (Claude Winter)affair.

1969 Madame Quinze

Hard to see too much except “blue” and “false eyelashes”!

Les évasions célèbresLatude ou l’entêtement de vivre (1972)

A TV series about famous historic escapes. This episode includes Claude Winter again as Pompadour.

1972 Latude ou l'entêtement de vivre

Aaaand we have head necklace!

Madame Pompadour (1974)

Ok, so I think this was a German TV filming of an operetta about the marquise (Ingeborg Hallstein), but this album image I found was so hilarious I had to include it.

1974 Madame Pompadour

I just have SO many questions. Is that a cape she’s wearing?

L’attentat de Damiens (1975)

A French TV movie about Robert-François Damiens, who tried to assassinate Louis XV. Myriam Feune de Colombi plays the famous mistress.

1975 L'attentat de Damiens

GREAT HAIR even if it’s very shiny!

Ce diable d’homme: Emilie contre Frédéric (1975)

Yet another French TV series, with one episode that includes Pompadour (Geneviève Grad).

1975 Ce diable d'homme - Emilie contre Frédéric

Dear god the eyeshadow…

Softly from Paris: Le style Pompadour (1991)

An “erotic French TV series,” with one episode focusing on the marquise (Marie-Ève Doré).

1991 Série rose - Le style Pompadour

I SO don’t see Pompadour as a brunette, so this bugs me.

Madame Pompadour (1996)

Another broadcast of the operetta, with Noëmi Nadelmann as the marquise.

1996 Madame Pompadour

It’s very 90s softcore porn…

Il giovane Casanova (2002)

Which translates to “the young Casanova.” An Italian TV movie about the famous seducer who, at the end of the film, ends up in Paris seducing Pompadour (Katja Flint)!

2002 Il giovane Casanova

Okay the dresses are great, but I’m stuck on Pompadour not being a brunette. I mean, maybe she was! But she should be powdered white. | French actress Barbara Schulz and German actress Katja Flint (R) star in TV film “Le jeune Casanova” (Il Giovane Casanova), directed by Giacomo Battiato. (Photo by Fabian Cevallos/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

2002 Il giovane Casanova

And I hope this is fancy dress, because that’s a shitty, not-18th-century crown. | And the hair just seems 1690s-1710s? Huh? | German actress Katja Flint stars in TV film “Le jeune Casanova” (Il Giovane Casanova), directed by Giacomo Battiato. (Photo by Fabian Cevallos/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)

Fanfan la Tulipe (2003)

Yet another stab at this swashbuckler, which I have tried to watch at least twice and fallen asleep both times. This DESPITE Vincent Perez in the title role! The costuming appears to be somewhat on crack. Hélène de Fougerolles plays Pompadour, although I have yet to make it to her entrance. Someday! shakes tiny fist

2003 Fanfan la Tulipe

That’s a LOT OF BOLD CHOICES.

2003 Fanfan la Tulipe

Snark Week said it best!

Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour (2006)

Okay, I gotta see this one because VINCENT PEREZ AS LOUIS XV. DYING. Hélène de Fougerolles (Fanfan la Tulipe) reprises her role as Pompadour (I guess she was that good?).

2006 Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour

Okay, so Vincent is HOT HOT HOT, and that dress is pretty…

2006 Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour

But she’s so thin and unpowdered that I’m just NOT FEELING IT.

2006 Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour

And the machine embroidery here is killing me.

Doctor Who: The Girl in the Fireplace (2006)

Do I really need to introduce this? Doctor Who, androids stalk Madame de Pompadour (Jessica Atkins, briefly, as the child version; Sophia Myles as the adult).

2006 The Girl in the Fireplace - Doctor Who
Doctor Who- The Girl in the Fireplace (2006)

Of course, this is a rewear from The Madness of King George

This 18th-c. gown has been in multiple costume dramas!

This one is originally from Aristocrats. I’m guessing that’s why the bodice is soooo long?

Louis XV, le Soleil noir (2009)

For once, a biopic focused on Louis instead of la Pomp (Romane Portail)!

2009 Louis XV, le Soleil noir

Great wig! Someone dial down the brows!!

2009 Louis XV, le Soleil noir

Casanova (2015)

The Amazon pilot that sadly went nowhere. Bojana Novakovic plays the marquise.

2015 Casanova

FAAAABULOUS hair, although I’d add Even More Powder…

Who’s your favorite Pompadour? Okay, who’s your favorite OTHER than Sophia Myles?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

16 Responses

    • LouisD

      Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954) is very fun, with the entire who’s who of the french cinema plus Claudette Colbert.
      But the costumes are crappy.

      Reply
      • picasso Manu

        the costumes are all “fifties does historical”. And Jean Marais as Louis XV, which always makes me giggle now.

        Reply
    • Saraquill

      That’s the only one of the above I’ve seen. Do any of the others reach that bar?

      Reply
  1. Damnitz

    I don’t like any of the represantation of Madame de Pompadour. It’s astonishing how often she was portrayed, but never really brought to life again.

    Reply
    • Rori

      I feel like Hollywood (at least in the US) and American audience aren’t that into 17th-18th century France story unless it involves Marie Antoinette.

      Reply
  2. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    As beautiful as Sophia Myles is, I always got a bit hung up on the fact that she is very blue-eyed blonde ice queen and Pompadour had brown eyes and in all her portraits, she just looks so charming and roguish in a very specific way, which I didn’t quite get from the devastatingly beautiful Sophia Myles. I guess they cast Sophia because she and Tennant were an item at the time, because, chemistry.

    Reply
  3. Selkie

    Vincent Perez is always the right answer. The fact that I don’t remember the question is beside the point.

    Reply
  4. Lexy

    Funny that few adaptations follow her actual color code: she loved blue and pink and was known to wear them constantly, matching her coach ot her furnitures with her dresses

    Reply

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