Art bead scene challenge’s October inspiration is the painting of Madame Pompadour (Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson,) by the artist Francois Boucher. I must admit that my acquaintance with this painting goes to 2014 when I started to teach Costume history. Madame Pompadour was a fashion icon and this image is often used as a reference to talk about Robe-a-la-Française and Robe-a-la-Anglaise garments worn in the 18th Century. It is also used to teach aesthetics of the Rococo movement. As an art enthusiast, I would like to share what I know about the painting before I showcase my Pompadour’s Rococo necklace.
Madame De Pompadour by Francois Boucher
Boucher’s paintings are often filled with sensual imagery and this one is no different. The ceramic doll look of Pompadour with a sprinkling of blush and just a hint of cleavage, makes you want to reach out and gently stroke her skin. The slight dusting of flour on her hair and the multistrand pearl bracelet makes her look distinguished. Between luscious gold curtains, ornate Rococo scroll clock with an angel and Jeanne-Antoinette’s pose there is a clear depiction of what money and power can buy. It is said that, as a Marquise estate owner, the official mistress to Louis XV, she used portraits as a medium of communication to the king and the public. This carefully arranged, allegorical image of Pompadour, where she is shown as a beautiful, exotic (cushion covers from India and China) well read (book, letters, quill), and intelligent woman who understands her frailty and position is remarkable strategising on her part.
Costume of Madame De Pompadour
As a fashion icon Madame P set fashion trends. The liberal uses of bows and her fondness for Oriental colours like teal, peacock green and blue, mustard, and ikat weaves is what equate with Rococo fashion today. A 18th century noble woman dressed in several layers. What you can see here are just four – the underskirt, skirt, with a bodice, Stomacher, a robe and a handkerchief (ficcu).
The bodice has a deep square neckline, with a border of pleated lace. It is covered by the “V” pointed stomacher embellished with bows. The tiered overskirt is spread wide to display an underskirt in the same colour which is a bit unusual for this period. They are both decorated with braids, ruffles and flowers. The robe is a Robe a la Française (A French Robe with a sack back) with what I think are detachable tiered sleeves (Engageantes). The positioning of the bows is clever. On her neck to take attention away from her double chin and on her elbow to hide the tie up. Don’t miss out her embroidered heeled shoes that bring out movement using the orange accent.
Pompadour’s Rococo necklace – Inspiration to Realisation
Though this painting was familiar to me, I found it difficult to translate it into jewelry. Mainly because I dislike too much of embellishment, esp bows. After an initial struggle, I asked myself – “What would be my version of Rococo?” I immediately thought of scrolls, Rococo colours, inverted triangle shape, and sheen of silk. When I considered Boucher’s style I knew that I had to have a clear sense of rhythm through repetition in my piece with carefully arranged elements. (Look at the two roses near Madame P’s leg!!) Initially, I thought of using an acanthus leaf clasp as Acanthus is a recurring motif from that period but gave it up later.
In my post on the Chintz necklace, I had written about Indian and Chinese influence in terms of colour and motifs in European fashion. Like the Aesthetic movement that came almost a century later, here too colours like teal, mustard ( and chrome yellow) and light pink (peach and salmon too) were very important. Because these colours brought the much needed relief from the black, reds, golds of the Baroque period that preceded it.
I have very few art components and I was lucky enough to find a triangular teal bead (Soul Silver) and a round Chrome yellow headpin (Bought at Beadfest – Artist face known, name unknown :D) They both became the anchor points of the piece. The enamelled headpin became the clock face clasp. I created the pendant using layers of resin, paper, paints and ink to create textures and sheen to look like new silk – particularly the rustle of silk taffeta. This was my way of introducing silk into the piece without using the fabric. However, I used satin fabric flowers to make the pendant more feminine and to represent the floral embellishments and accessories in the painting.
There are many ways to achieve Rhythm in a composition and gradation, movement and repetition are two such methods. I fact repetition alone is enough to create movement and as a result rhythm. I have repeated teal, pink, and yellow with their respective colour gradation. For movement I have used scrolls and chain links. I have made wire scroll necklaces as a beginner jewelry maker and found them to be wobbly. But I finally figured out how to make it strong for this necklace. The length is such that it just grazes the cleavage line, like a little tease.
Palm Leaf Bullet Earrings
PS: On an afterthought, I want to show a pair of earrings as well as it fits into this colour palette well. In magnificent peacock green and gold, these bullet like earrings are lightweight and easy to wear. The Palm leaf beads were hand woven by Palm leaf artisan Priya in at the Pulicat Palm leaf Women’s cooperative society that I wrote about in my post on Pulicat.
Though I do not envision Madame P wearing this Rococo necklace, I like to think that a very beautiful, intelligent (read sexy) woman would one day wear it. Do write to me in the comments about your views about Rococo, Madame P, the painting or my necklace. Both pieces are available for sale. Please do contact me if you are interested in purchasing them.
I hope you found it interesting