January 06: friends in high places
2012/01/06 § Leave a comment
On this day in 1755, the marquis de Marigny suggested the name of Jacques Germain Soufflot (1713–1780) to King Louis XV for a new church dedicated to the patron saint of Paris, Sainte-Geneviève.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” True: but “to whom you’re related” sometimes helps too, especially if that whom is the king’s favored croque-en-bouche, your sister. That is the happy fate that befell the elaborately named Abel-François Poisson de Vandières, better known as the marquis de Marigny, whose sister, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, became the king’s mistress (and as such is better known as Marquise de Pompadour). Abel-François followed his sister to court, where he was groomed for a future position as director of the Bâtiments du Roi. Part of his “grooming” (the French know from grooming) included a two-year jaunt through Italy in the company of the brilliant Soufflot, who was some thirteen years Marigny’s senior. The two developed a bond that paid off well for both. Marigny was elevated to his directorship in 1755; in that year the king decided to move forward with his votive church for Sainte-Geneviève, and steered the project to his travel companion. Soufflot turned his extraordinary skills to completing one of the great Neo-Classical churches anywhere, anytime. On occasion, nepotism is not all that bad.
image: interior of Sainte-Geneviève (the Panthéon), Paris (by Clio)