V62: The Hairstylings of Madame de Pompadour, by Legros de Rumigny

Lovely reader Ceselha, of the blog “My Stubby Fingers…” pointed me to two books on ladies’ hairstyling, from 1768, entitled ” L’Art de la Coeffure des Dames Francoises,” and a supplement to the same.  They were written by Legros de Rumigny, the official hairdresser to the court of Louis XV, and particularly Madame de Pompadour.

For those of you who speak French, I envy your ability to read these books.  I have to translate them, but even without the transcript, the illustrations within are fantastic and descriptive.  Before Marie Antoinette and Leonard even thought about poufs, Pompadour and Legros were creating some equally as fabulous hair constructs, which were to make them both famous (among other things).

You can view and download both books on the Gallica website (here and here).  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites from the selection:

A coronet of puffs, with the hair pulled up in back, rather tightly, secured with a comb, and check out those side curls .  Very elegant.
Quite a lot of these styles have the same basic structures, and usually start with the hair pulled up in back, then arranged some way on top of the head.
Basket woven hair in back? Another use of a large comb.  The front appears to be frizzed.

My favorite – I think she’s just so pretty, unlike many of the other very distinct-looking ladies in these illustrations.  Here we have side curls again, and quite a towering collection of rolls on the top and sides.
This lady’s got the hair pulled up in back again, tied at intervals with big ribbons, quite a simple and effective way to add hair decor that packs a punch.  Small flowers are stuck into the rolls at the front.
I like this noble lady’s profile.  I wonder if these illustrations were meant to represent particular court ladies?  The hair is more intricate, with the pin curls.  I love the little ponytails that seem to be left loose at the top of some of these updo’s.
I suspect this is meant to be a straw hat with weird, stylized perspective.  How would this look in real life?  You’ll see on her coronet that there are mini buns/donuts as well as rolls.
Another examples of the donuts, and quite a large lace …thing…up behind the coronet.
Here we begin to see stylings of the 1770s – those low rolls under the ears are a hallmark of the coming decade.  The front of the hair is frizzed, and I just love that atifet style head dress.

These are only a few of the plates in both books.  Some of them seem to repeat, but then there are some really fun ones, as you see.  So now…ready to start sculpting that hair?


  • Cynthia Griffith

    March 2, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    I always feel so clumsy with my almost mid-calf hair, but it really is too long for me to deal with other than very simple things (especially trying to learn). I know there are some people who are skilled with doing whatever they like with their hair even as long, but I'm unfortunately not one of them. 🙁

    These are very neat, thanks so much for sharing them!

  • Brittany_Va-VoomVintage

    March 3, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    These styles are simply stunning! I took 4 years of French in highschool but have forgotten most of it. Maybe I can muddle through enough to try some of these styles myself. Thanks for sharing!! x

  • Anonymous

    March 3, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    In the first image the side curls look as though they are wrapped around…a spindle?? That would account for how they look as like they weigh a ton. And I thought the "basket weave" was a tight hair net. Do the instructions say if the coronet poufs are individual poufs? They look like maybe some hair from the crown of the head is "inch-wormed" down the side. Why didn't they just take pictures like normal people? 😉 My French is almost nonexistent but I may have a go anyways. Thanks for the links!

    • Lauren R

      March 3, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      Anon, those curls may have been wrapped around some sort of spindle and "baked" into position, if they are not the wearer's hair. I think more likely the illustrations, while descriptive, are stylized to the point of being more like cartoons. I suppose it's time to experiment with things and see how these hairstyles turn out on real heads 🙂

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