Preliminary Toilette


After a private seance of washing and grooming, Madame de Pompadour would settle into a preliminary toilette phase as her audience trickled in. 

Composite image of preliminary toilette, during the petit dejeuner. Madame de Pompadour extracted from Francois Boucher painting of Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, ca. 1750. Harvard Art Museums. Silverware from Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fork and spoon by Louis Nicolle, ca. 1684. Silver Gilt. Accession Number: 48.187.214. Ewer and Basin by Marc Bazille, ca. 1745-56. Metalwork-Silver. Accession Number: 58.60.1. Chocolate pot by François Thomas Germain, ca. 1765–66. Silver and Wood. Accession Number: 48.187.407. Tureen with cover by Edme-Pierre Balzac, ca. 1757-59. Metalwork-Silver. Accession Number: 48.187.418a–c. Madame de Pompadour has been flipped from her original position in Boucher’s painting, makeup brushes replaced by silverware, rouge removed from her face, hair is powdered but not yet styled. Composite image by Eugenie Pron.

Adorned in a lace neglige, Madame de Pompadour engaged in conversation with her courtly entourage as she was served breakfast, or petit dejeuner, at her dressing table. The petit dejeuner was also an opportunity for Madame de Pompadour to showcase her  rococo silver service. An ewer and its accompanying basin collectively served as a “portable sink” and were used by Madame de Pompadour to wash her hands (Munger). The Marquise always drank chocolate as her morning beverage of choice, and would have likely had a recently invented silver chocolate pot to house her drink (Du Hausset).

In preparation for the face-painting and hair-styling to come, Madame de Pompadour’s servants would apply a base of powder to her face and through her hair–creating a blank canvas.