Oooh la la! Stunning desk and bureau once belonging to French royal mistress expected to fetch £20million at auction
- Furniture once owned by Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompadour will go under the hammer at Christie's auction house in London this week
- The items had been owned by Paris-based Iranian businessman Djahangur Riahi and his wife
By STEVE NOLAN
A desk belonging to a French royal mistress on which she is said to have written her love letters to the king is expected to fetch £20million at auction.
The beautiful desk, owned by Louis XV's lover and one of the most powerful women in 18th century France Madame de Pompadour, will go under the hammer at Christie's auction house in London later this week.
The 18th century desk forms the centrepiece of a private art auction featuring two pieces belonging to Madame de Pompadour.
Regal: A beautiful desk belonging to Louis XV's mistress Madame de Pompadour is expected to fetch £20million at auction this week
Beautiful: The desk is said to be the place where Madame de Pompadour wrote love letters to the French king
As well as the desk, a Louis XV ormolu-mounted Japanese lacquer secretaire-à-abattant by Bernard II van Risenburgh, a bureau will also go on sale.
The items had been owned by Paris-based Iranian businessman Djahangur Riahi and his wife who are among Paris' most prominent collectors of high value 18th century art pieces.
Part of the Riahi collection fetched £40million in 2000 in a sale at Christie's New York auction house.
The price of 18th century furniture by some of the most collectable cabinet makers has shot up.
The illegitimate daughter of a financier Madame de Pompadour, or Jean-Antoinette Poisson as she was born in 1721, was groomed to become a play thing of the king. She became his mistress and one of the most powerful women in 18th century France.
She met him at a ball in 1745 while dressed as a coquettish shepherdess and the king dressed as a tree.
Royal love: Madame de Pompadour, left, was King Louis XV's mistress
Her carriage was spotted outside his apartments later the same evening and although the pair's relationship wasn't expected to last, she had moved into rooms at the Palace of Versailles within weeks of their first meeting.
Madame de Pompadour is said to have been determined to make the relationship last and split with husband soon after moving into the palace.
She gained her own coat of arms and the title the Marquise de Pompadour.
She is said to have been attractive and educated.
Madame de Pompadour had a particular passion for porcelain and used art to seduce the king. She is said to have miscarried several times and eventually the pair's relationship become platonic as she was no longer able to have sex.
She began to commission images of herself based on the theme of friendship. Her final portrait shows her as a respectable, cultured middle-aged woman.
She had influence over all areas of royal police and was the unofficial minister of culture.
From the mid–1750s onwards, Pompadour became involved in foreign policy and was indirectly responsible for starting the Seven Years' War in which France suffered a humiliating defeat.
Her popularity slumped and she died in 1764 aged just 43.
Detail: Madame de Pompadour had expensive tastes and was unofficial French minister of culture
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