Pretty and Powerful in Pink

Philippe de Champaigne, 1602 - 1674 Cardinal de Richelieu 1633-40 Oil on canvas, 259.5 x 178.5 cm Presented by Charles Butler, 1895 NG1449

ABSOLUTE POWER: Cardinal de Richelieu, oil on canvas, 1633-40 by Philippe de Champaigne.
Image: © Copyright The National Gallery, London 2015
“I have the consolation of leaving your kingdom in the highest degree of glory and of reputation”, the dying Richelieu wrote to Louis XVIII, father of Louis XIV. The foundations of French gloire in the reign of the Sun King were laid by Richelieu. He wears Cardinal’s Robes of pink, the liturgical colour of rejoicing in God.

gainsboroughcountesshoweREAL ESTATE, SEX AND FASHION POWER in one woman: Mary, Countess Howe by Gainsborough, oil on canvas, 1764.
Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, London. Image: WGA
This exquisite incarnation of 18th century elegance and aristocracy was the wife of a gouty admiral. She had been born into a wealthy, landowning family and was co-heiress with her sister of their father’s substantial property; her marriage brought her into the aristocracy when her husband inherited the title of Viscount.
She is pretty and formidable, sensually alluring and untouchable. The love with which Gainsborough imbues her portrait and the poetically moody sky is thought by art historians to not be an entire illusion, as he was known to become sexually attracted to his good-looking female sitters, a professional hazard for many portraitists of all epochs.

In the same year Gainsborough painted Mary Howe, on the other side of the Channel, the woman who had redefined, owned and commercialized pink, the king’s mistress and unofficial cultural minister of France, Madame de Pompadour, died.


Madame de Pompadour by Boucher, 1759. Wallace Collection, London. Image: WGA
SELF-MADE POWER: elegant, gentle, carnal yet intangible, suggestible but not forceful – this is the quintessentially feminine power of influence crafted by the woman herself.

Such a soft, shell-like pink reminiscent of idealized human flesh tones, is flattering next to a middle-aged woman’s skin, but it is also suggestive of the colour of the sky when the sun rises and sets, and, in the iconography of her relationship with Louis XV, the sun god was the symbol of her lover and master, the king. Her favourite portraitist Boucher, was the genius and pander of pink.

MarilynpinkCELEBRATION OF PINK POWER: Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the pink satin dress designed by Travilla, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953. Image: Wikipedia
Blatant materialism and feminine predatory sexuality find absolution in pure, sweet, shocking pink celebration of being alive.
Marilyn is the girl whose faults we all forgive.

Pink is the colour of joy.

10 comments on “Pretty and Powerful in Pink

  1. […] got used to being called beautiful and stupid. Maybe Frances was shrewd enough to play dumb, like Lorelei Lee, who knew how “to be smart when it’s important”, because she managed her life and […]


  2. beetleypete says:

    Done! (And liked) Great reproduction of images on that site, They jump off the screen at you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. beetleypete says:

    Vickie’s blog is a delight for the mind and eye Pippa. I am on the way there now, to check out that re-blog.
    As always, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. PJR says:

    I’m delighted that the novelist Vickie Lester has reblogged the Pink series on Beguiling Hollywood, because she has access to a far superior and more joyful collection of movie stills than I can muster – you are urged to visit her blog if you haven’t already.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. PJR says:

    Thank you, Segmation, for your kind visit. The Last Post’s title was meant to be lightly self-deprecating, but it might come over more portentously than intended. It’s both plaintive, the bugle call in tribute to dead people – one especially – I loved, and because I’m never quite sure if the last post I’ve written really will be “the last post”….Pink was a slightly mad riff, and I’m lucky imaginative, clever people like you enjoyed it – a good image.always makes up for some cranky prose.


  6. segmation says:

    Your blog always amazes me. I love your photos. How did you decide to name yourself Last Post?>>>

    Liked by 1 person

  7. PJR says:

    Yes, I am sure a voice can be pink! A sound notion. Thank you both very much for “liking” these riffs on the pink spectrum.


  8. beetleypete says:

    I had to think. But yes, I do have some pink clothing. One shirt.

    I am enjoying this new theme a great deal, and have to agree that I can (and did) forgive Monroe all and any faults. (Even JFK) It was not because of her pinkness though, or even her pink dress.
    (I much prefer her in leotard and black tights, in the film ‘Let’s make Love.’) It wasn’t even her figure, or attractive face that beguiled me either. It was her voice. Can a voice be pink?

    As always, Pete. x

    Liked by 2 people

  9. erickeyswriter says:

    “Blatant materialism and feminine predatory sexuality find absolution in pure, sweet, shocking pink joy.
    Marilyn is the girl whose faults we all forgive.

    Pink is the colour of joy.”

    Yes, it does seem like there is something about seeing a deep and honest joy in someone that allows us to look past so many things. Perhaps that is how my son has avoided death by strangulation…

    Liked by 2 people

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