• Mon, Jul 30 2012

Shelved Dolls: Madame du Barry – Cinder-F*ckin’-Ella

For a while afterwards, Jeanne worked as a shopgirl at Labille’s, a glamorous toilette where wealthy members of society would buy fans, feathers and hats. The position allowed her to interact with a variety of wellborn men, and she was known to trade her affections for fans, feathers and hats. While the owner of the store disapproved of her morals, and her laziness (she did not show up for work on time) he claimed that he could hardly dismiss a girl who attracted so many potential clients to his shop.

The Prince de Ligne, for instance, writes in his diary of a grisette at Labille’s assumed to be Madame du Barry who is “tall, well made and ravishingly blonde, with a wide forehead, lovely eyes with dark lashes, a small oval face with a delicate complexion marked by two beauty spots, which only made her more piquant, a mouth to which laughter came easily and a bosom so perfect as to defy comparison.”

I always marvel at how, in their private remembrances, men and women of this period describe people they’ve seen as we might describe them to a police sketch artist.

Speaking of which – the police did keep a file on Jeanne during this period. She was described as “a pretty little grisette ready to accept whatever came her way” but since she did not solicit men off the streets, they didn’t really bother her.

But then, her life was about to change dramatically.

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  • Ellen W.

    Can I be “Team NOT Marie Antoinette?” (Yes, I know she was treated very badly and didn’t have an easy life. But you’re the one who decided we had to pick a team!)

    There are things to love about both of them and I want to have Pompadour’s cleverness and taste, but du Barry’s generosity and optimism. Okay, fine, and Marie Antoinette’s poise.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Everyone is allowed to be team not Marie Antoinette. Though honestly, I never really got why Marie Antoinette and du Barry didn’t become friends. Both of them were strangers to the Court’s customs (M.A. was Austrian) hated by the public and known for having kind of vulgar tastes. Especially since the last Queen and Pompadour were buddies! Though I suppose that goes along with disliking people because they show traits we dislike in ourselves.

    • Naomi

      I imagine that if nothing else, Marie Antoinette was very concerned about fitting in at Versailles and being on the court’s good side. It’s like the new girl in school being a twat to fit in with the popular mean girls.

  • Adrienne

    It was hard to pick a team (although I picked Pompadour) as I think I would like both in their own ways! Thanks Jennifer yet again for picking such interesting dolls to profile!

  • Naomi

    You and I feel precisely the same way about both Pompadour and du Barry. We should be friends.

  • Lisa

    Do more research and read the book by Stanley Loomis, which is better description of Madame du Barry. She was perhaps more educated than the ladies at court. The hatred of her was partly due to her up bringing, but mostly due to jealousy… Being the mistress of the king was a very coveted position.

  • Lisa

    Madame du Barry was kind, and a great lover and supporter of the arts. Madame Pompadour, from what, I have read was a B..ch on wheels… Madame du Barry was also a friend of Voltaire. She was an good cook, since her mother worked from time to time as a cook. In the convent she became educated, as I stated earlier.. and refined in manners probably more so than some of the royal women, who hated her. Madame du Barry was also the first to wear assorted gems together, and also one of the first to use the services Rose Bertin , later deemed dress maker to the Queen.

  • Lisa

    Also for the record,du Barry was pretty happy and lived a damn good life, up until Mr.Greive got hold of her and Zamor and others, turned on her.