Your Paris Palette: Pompadour Pinks

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Top left: detail of wool cardie, Agnès B., fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Agnès B. Top right: scarf, Claudie Pierlot, fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Claudie Pierlot. Bottom left: Valentino couture, fall/winter 2012–2013. Bottom right: detail of Madame de Pompadour’s 1759 portrait by Boucher, Wallace Collection, London; photo: Wallace Collection & Trustees.

Paris style owes a lot to Madame de Pompadour, the 18th century’s charming patron of pink. Officially (very officially) she was the mistress of Louis XV. At his side, she essentially acted as culture minister. Already a trained dancer, actress and musician, the former Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson was an important sponsor of French fine art and artisans.

She is behind much of rococo Paris style—from peerless porcelain and paintings to furniture and Réveillon wallpaper. The marquise championed creating the porcelain factory at Sèvres and had the Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde) built in Paris. She even got Louis to create the Petit Trianon. For a Paris residence, the king gave her the Hôtel d’Evreux, better known today as the Elysée Palace.

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Top left: detail of Madame de Pompadour’s corsage, portrait by Boucher at le Louvre; photo: “Les Dames de Trianon,” Château de Versailles. Top right: Chanel suit, fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Dior. Bottom left: compensé shoe, Robert Clergerie; photo: Robert Clergerie, rue du Cherche Midi. Bottom right: Agnès B. hat, fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Agnès B.

The court saw Madame de Pompadour as its tastemaker and copied everything from her favorite soup (celery and truffles) to those satin shoes now known as Pompadour heels. The marquise is especially remembered in fashion, which always returns to her signature color: pink. Madame de Pompadour styled her portraits to include the symbols of culture. She is always seen with books, globes and sheets of music. But she was more insistent that painters include her favorite color, whether via salmon satin, flowers or rosy ribbons. The epitome of her taste, that pink christened rose Pompadour, is a trademark of the finest Sèvres porcelain.

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Top left: Madame de Pompadour by Boucher (detail), Fogg Library, Harvard; photo: “Les Dames de Trianon,” Château de Versailles. Top right: Dior couture fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Dior. Bottom left: clutch bag, Red Valentino; photo: Red Valentino. Bottom right: Agnès B. jacket, fall/winter 2012-2013; photo: Agnès B.

This winter, Paris style offers a full Pompadour palette. From Valentino to Claudie Pierlot and Agnès B., pinks appear in both festive ruffles and luxury knits. Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Raf Simons at Dior each reinterpreted another Pompadour duo, that of different grays combined with various pinks.

Also, thanks to the Palace of Versailles, you now have a chance to own the smiles that once seduced kings. After the success of the exhibition “Les Dames de Trianon” (“Women of the Trianon”), the palace ingeniously transformed the leftover publicity. French company Bilum, a recycling specialist, has turned its banners into limited-edition bags. This Estate of Versailles Collection has five models: a makeup bag, an iPad cover, a billfold for travel documents, a shopping bag and a cabin bag. Available in the palace boutique or online, these are already a hit with collectors.

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Top: selection of limited-edition bags made from recycled posters for “Les Dames de Trianon” at the Château de Versailles by Bilum, available at Château de Versailles boutique or online; photo: Château de Versailles. Bottom: Red Valentino bag, available at le Bon Marché or online; photo: Red Valentino.

Pink has also made news in the world of perfume. The Maison Lancôme just debuted a new Peut-Etre, its remix of a vintage parfum from 1937. The scent’s first ads billed Peut-Etre as the “Noël de parfums,” a treat that promised its wearer “grace, ardor and abundance.” It’s back now as part of the Lancôme heritage series, rereleased favorites updated for hard-core perfume lovers. In Paris, you can find it exclusively at le Bon Marché.

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Top left: 1937’s revived Pêut-Etre by Lancôme, exclusively at le Bon Marché; photo: Steve Sampson. Top right: evening dress, Red Valentino; photo: Red Valentino. Bottom left: Madame de Pompadour by Alexandre Roslin (detail), 1754, Konstmuseum, Göteborg, Sweden; photo: “Les Dames de Trianon,” Château de Versailles. Bottom right: satin sneakers, Sonia Rykiel couture, fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Cynthia Rose.

But maybe your Paris style needs to stay on a budget? There are still special souvenirs of Madame de Pompadour. The Elysée Palace, her onetime Paris HQ, is open once a year—during two Heritage Days. But President Hollande has now decided to open its gardens the last Sunday of every month. Visiting hours are currently noon–5 p.m. (from April to September, 1–7 pm). The queues for this visit are impressive, but there is also a virtual visit in 3D.

Many of Madame de Pompadour’s Sèvres vases now reside in the Louvre. But my favorite tribute to her taste is in the metro. At the Line 1 stop for Concorde, where you dismount to reach what was once Place Louis XV, you’ll discover seating in surprisingly delicate colors. It’s a delicious Pompadour pink—combined with delicate gray!

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Top left: Dior couture, fall/winter 2012–2013; photo: Dior. Top right: metro seats at Concorde; photo: Steve Sampson. Bottom left: Tin of rose-flavored bonbons, A la Mère de Famille; photo: Cynthia Rose. Bottom right: detail of Madame de Pompadour’s portrait by Boucher, circa 1750, National Gallery of Scotland; photo: Wikipedia.

Related Links

Madame de Pompadour

Réveillon wallpaper (in the Museum of Decorative Arts)

Elysée Palace (virtual visit)

Pompadour heels

Sèvres porcelain

Les Dames de Trianon (catalogue)

Estate of Versailles les Dames de Trianon Collection

Peut-Etre by Maison Lancôme

Heritage Days (les Journées européennes du patrimoine)

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