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Ne blamons personne ils ont sans doute leurs raisons.

(Let us blame no one; they have no doubt their reasons.)

Artist or maker:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Additional handwriting by Pierre-Antoine Tardieu (b.c 1784, d.1869)
Date:
1755?-1756?
1822-1869 {One inscription by Tardieu}
Drawing evokes Madame de Pompadour's turn to devotion 1755-6
Place of Production:
Paris, France
Medium:
watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Accession number:
675.282
One of a set, see others

Commentary

Brief Description:

A naked woman, her grey hair tied up in a bun, crouches with her back to us at the centre of the page. Positioned between her legs is a bidet in a wooden frame with elegantly curved legs. She appears to be washing her genitals.

Five men, several tonsured and all wearing black ecclesiastical cassocks, are gathered about the woman. On the right nearest the front, one man lies prostrate on the ground at her feet, which he appears to kiss. The hunched body of a second prostrate man is visible behind him. A third man, who faces the woman is pictured on bended knee. His body is inclined slightly backwards and his arms are open, as if in amazement. To the left of the woman is a similarly posed man with a short goatee who looks at her and smiles. The fifth man, like the first and second, is also pictured in a prostrate position. His hands are clasped as if in prayer and his head is raised. He looks at the woman’s right leg.

The floor is tiled. Three square-sided columns run at an angle across the background which is coloured with a light-pink wash. The columns are joined by two arches that, towards the middle, curve inwards, out and then in again, dividing the single arch into two. A round window has been cut into the wall above the central column.

Curatorial Commentary

Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, is almost certainly depicted here. In several related and adjacent drawings (e.g. 675.276 and 675.281), she is pictured with her buttocks exposed.

The Moorish arches evoke Pompadour’s taste for the exotic - in this context, specifically “turqueries”, an idiom she exploited in the cultivation of her own image, for example, in her commissioning of Carle VanLoo’s “Une sultane buvant du café” and “Deux Sultanes faisant de la broderie” (both c. 1752, Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum; see Stein, 1994). The present drawing’s reference to an Oriental architectural style echoes the association between the Jesuits and the orientalising “chinoiserie” style in several drawings in the “Livre de Caricatures” (cf. 675.269, 675.270). It might have been intended to suggest Jesuit ambitions in far-flung places or maybe an association with the worldliness and luxury of fashionable taste for the exotic.

Ironically, this drawing may reflect the turn towards Catholic devotion which Pompadour took from 1755, when her relationship with the pro-Jansenist Parlement of Paris was under pressure, and as her sexual relationship with the king was waning into mere friendship. She took a Jesuit spiritual director, Père Sacy. The drawing implies that she had entered into alliance with the Jesuits.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
Inscriptions:
Ne blamons personne ils ont sans doute leurs raisons.
Inscription
Inscribed in an unknown hand, below image, in ink

Les Jésuites aux pieds de Mme. de / Pompadour
Inscription
Inscribed Pierre-Antoine Tardieu, below image, in ink; the 'me' of 'Mme' is written in superscript.

82.
Pagination
Top left corner, in ink; first digit truncated by page's edge

282
Pagination
Top left, in ink
Translation of inscription
Let us blame no one; they have no doubt their reasons.
The Jesuits at the feet of Madame de Pompadour
Underdrawing:
Pentimenti, around arches, in graphite; faint lines suggest that the arches only curved in on themselves once, rather than the several times depicted in the finished drawing.
Language:
French

History

Part of:
Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises. 675.1-389
Collection:
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957

Bibliography

Bibliography:

Colin Jones, How not to laugh in the French Enlightenment, Columbia University Institute for Scholars Newsletter, 2008-2009, 7
Colin Jones, Presidential Address. French Crossings. II. Laughing over Boundaries, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 21, December 2011, 1-38
John Rogister; Decoding the Livre de caricatures; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 55-66; p. 62
Julian Swann; Politics and religion; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 117-150; pp. 124-5, fig. 5.2
Humphrey Wine; Madame de Pompadour; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 179-190; pp. 182-3

Related literature

Thomas Kaiser, Madame de Pompadour and the Theaters of Power, French Historical Studies, xix, Fall 1996, 1025-44
Rachel Akpabio, Madame de Pompadour at Waddesdon Manor, Apollo, clv, 2002, 27-31
Colin Jones; Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress; London; National Gallery Company; 2002
Perrin Stein, Madame de Pompadour & the Harem Imagery at Bellevue, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, cxxiii, 1994, 30-44

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