Saturday, 17 August 2013

Abel François Poisson de Vandières, Marquis de Marigny and de Menars

Abel François Poisson was born in 1727 but was not destined for the glittering life at Versailles at his birth. Actually, he owed his career there to his sister: Madame de Pompadour. Since he was a commoner the facts of his childhood are scarce but we know that he was raised by successful financiers. When his older sister became Louis XV's maîtresse-en-titre in 1745 she made sure that Abel followed her to court.

Abel-François Poisson, marquis de Marigny.jpgWhen he was 18 Louis XV made him heir to the post superintendent of the King's buildings and estates - most likely guided by his mistress. Consequently, Abel came into the training of the more experienced Charles Antoine Coypel. Abel then headed for his Grand Tour that would last between the last month of 1749 and the fall of 1751. During this trip he spent 25 months in Italy where he adored the artwork.
Abel was called back home to France in 1751 because the former superintendent of the King's buildings had died and Abel now had to take up his duties. Abel would keep this position until 1773 when he retired - this also means that he had the record for the longest administrative in the entire 18th century France!

Madame de Pompadour loved her brother and wished for him to marry prosperously but Abel himself was of a different mind. He repeatedly turned down one eligible heiress after another and remained a bachelor for the time being. Though Madame de Pompadour cared deeply about her brother her sentiments were not shared by all he met. Abel had a great temper, was often irritable and was constantly insecure about his less-than-noble origins. His redeeming qualities were his intelligence and a genuine passion for his job (that is probably why he stayed in his position for so long). Like his sister Abel he was a lover and patron of the arts and took the architect Sufflot under his wings - Sufflot would later design the Panthéon.
Abel himself had a weakness for historical works of art and it was through his period in charge of the King's buildings that the French neoclassicism took off.

In 1757 Abel could add the title of Marquis de Marigny to his name when his father died. Ten years later he finally married Julie Marie Françoise Filleul who happened to be one of the many illegitimate daughters of Louis XV. Through his later years Abel managed to acquire a large collection of artwork. But he had suffered from gout for some time and Abel died unexpectedly on 12 May 1781 in Paris having outlived his sister.

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