History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

13 November 2011

Madame Pompadour's Backside

History Today's blog (URL below) is running a profile on a series of racey, humorous caricatures from the mid to late 1700's. The November issue of the journal History Today features 'The Other Cheek', and authors Colin Jones and Emily Richardson reveal who a little-known collection of obscene and irreverent caricatures targetting Madame de Pompadour from a book of drawings entitled the Livre de caricatures tant Bonnes que mauvaises.

Many of the drawings are a little--well, what should I say? They reflect French humor of the time (the image posted here is very tame compared to many of them). You can see them all here:

The cartoonist, one of Madame Pompadour's contemporaries, told it like he saw it, that's for sure. The 'Book of Caricatures both Good and Bad' was composed over almost 30 years from the 1740s to the 1770s. The man responsible for them was Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, who was, from the 1740s, embroidery designer at the royal court. He never fessed up to drawing these images (it would have certianly cost him his head) but it seems like everyone knew it was him.

Powerful women in history have always intrigued me and Madame Pompadour had plenty of power. That she was the subject of such wickedly cutting cartoons is proof of her domination of the political scene at the time. Interesting to see this from era when a different kind of media ruled. No way would these cartoon ever see the light of print today. What do you think? Would a powerful woman today be publically spoofed like this? Or a man, for that matter?

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Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Kathrynn, I read that article and was fascinated. I have a chapter on Louis and Mme. de Pompadour in my upcoming nonfiction wip, ROYAL ROMANCES: TITILLATING TALES OF PASSION AND POWER IN THE PALACES OF EUROPE and was struck by the fact that nothing was sacred, even then. We know, for example, how Marie Antoinette was libelled generations later, with obscene caricatures, and that the English political caricatures were practically an art form from the 1780s onward, but it was interesting to see how much earlier it was going on in France.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks, Leslie. I have your upcoming nonfiction WIP on my list now! I have to read this! I love this stuff!


6:18 PM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

Amazing stuff, Kathrynn! Thanks for the link. I'm fascinated by how early these started in France and how widely they were tolerated. WWI dugouts were decorated in murals made from these caricatures. LOL

11:25 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I'm sure that Margaret Thatcher was spoofed in Private Eye or another satirical magazines in the UK. I do remember seeing a spoof of the Care Bears on Spitting Image where she was Careless Bear. And I wouldn't be surprised that Eva Peron was publicly spoofed like that. I definitely don't think a male politician or powerful figure has ever had to suffer what a woman in the public eye has suffered.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Wow, Diane, on WWII dugouts? Interesting. I have to say the image of Madame P, er, doing her business into the mouth of a sleeping Cardinal (the image that appears on the first page of the article) was well, a little out there for my sensitive modern tastes!

9:24 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Elizabeth---Eva Peron, Ms Thatcher, and Hillary Clinton...to name a few! But do you think their caricatures were so, uh, crude in subject matter? Maybe there is some underground plitical cartoon publication where they are, but wow, I don't think some of the drawings could be published today without someone getting sued (or even moreso, getting murder threats!)

9:28 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

That's probably one of the good things about being more politically correct. I don't know if one can sue though over a political cartoon. It does make me wonder what sorts of cartoons about Thatcher or Hillary Clinton are possibly floating around in Europe that we haven't seen.

8:39 AM  

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