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The Eighteenth-Century Woman

The Eighteenth-Century Woman

Bernier, Olivier
168 pages
90 illustrations
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The hallmarks of the eighteenth century—its opulence, charm, wit, intelligence—are embodied in the age's remarkable women. These women held sway in the salons, in the councils of state, in the ballrooms, in the bedrooms; they enchanted (or intimidated) the most powerful of men and presided over an extraordinary cultural flowering of unprecedented luxury and sophistication. It is this captivating world that Olivier Bernier recreates. A world in which the shrewdness of Madame de Pompadour or the beauty of Madame du Barry could change the course of great nations. A world that could encompass the piquant frankness of Abigail Adams and the dark plotting of the queen of Naples. This world has been swept away, but its great ladies, the first modern women, still speak to us.

Fourteen dashing and sometimes tragic women—empress and dressmaker, bluestocking and courtesan—come to life here in a series of lavishly illustrated essays. Delightfully informative, this timely book charts the beginnings of women's liberation, illuminates the century for those who are unfamiliar with it, and provides new insights for those who know it well.

Brooch, Gold, diamonds, probably Spanish
probably Spanish
18th century
Potpourri vase (pot-pourri gondole), Sèvres Manufactory  French, Soft-paste porcelain decorated in polychrome enamels, gold, French, Sèvres
Multiple artists/makers
Luncheon, Bernard Lepicié  French, Etching and engraving
Louis XV (1710–1774), King of France, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne the Younger  French, White marble, French, Paris
Madame de Pompadour (1721–1764), Jean-Baptiste Pigalle  French, White marble (Sost, the French Pyrenees), French, Paris
Decoration for a Masked Ball at Versailles, on the Occasion of the Marriage of Louis, Dauphin of France, and Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain (Bal masqué donné par le roi, dans la grande galerie de Versailles, pour le mariage de Dauphin, 1745), Charles Nicolas Cochin I  French, Etching with engraving
1764, reprinted ca. 1860
Study of the left hand of Mme de Pompadour, François Boucher  French, Black chalk with slight touches of red chalk, heightened with white on buff paper
18th century
The Toilette of Venus, François Boucher  French, Oil on canvas
ca. 1761 (?)
Denis Diderot (1713–1784), Jean Antoine Houdon  French, Marble, French, Paris
Mademoiselle Marie-Jeanne Fesch Chevallier, Louis René Boquet  French, Black chalk and watercolor
Decoration de la salle de spectacle construite a Versailles pour la representation de la Princesse de Navarre, Charles Nicolas Cochin II  French, Etching
ca. 1745
1760 (?)
Les Adieux, from Le Monument du Costume, Restif de La Bretonne, Etching and engraving
Multiple artists/makers
Torchère figure (one of a pair), Augustin Pajou  French, Plaster, carved and gilded wood, French
19th century
Le Bain (the Bath), Sigmond Freudeberg  Swiss, Engraving
Le Matin (Morning), Pierre Antoine Baudouin  French, Gouache over traces of graphite, paper pasted onto board
La Nuit (Night), Pierre Antoine Baudouin  French, Gouache on paper, pasted onto board
Folding fan, Silk, paper, mother-of-pearl, spangles, glass, French
ca. 1775
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Bernier, Olivier. 1981. The Eighteenth-Century Woman. Garden City, N.Y. : New York: Doubleday ; Published in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.