The marquis de Pomponne was with Colbert and Louvois one of the great ministers of King Louis XIV. His career was that of a distinguished diplomat who through his family connections occupied at court a priviledged position. The son of a powerful parliamentary family which had served since Catherine of Medici as advisors to the Crown. Simon Arnauld was the son of an erudite advocate and the nephew of one of the greatest theologians of his age, the great Arnault, who defended the Jansenist cause from the convent of Port Royal. As a result of his close association with such a highly sensitive political group, the marquis de Pomponne suffered many setbacks in his career, yet his talents secured him from 1671 to 1679 a position as minister of Foreign Affairs and after the death of his great enemy, Louvois, in 1691, a permanent seat at the King's Council which he occupied until his death in 1699.
The duc de Saint Simon described the man in very flattering terms "C'toit un homme qui excelloit surtout par un sens droit, juste, exquis, qui pesoit tut et faisoit tout avec maturit, mais sans lenteur; d'une modestie, d'une modration, d'une simplicit de moeurs admirables, et de la plus solide de la plus claire pit. Ses yeux montroient de la douceur et de l'esprit; toute sa physionomie, de la sagesse et de la candeur; un art, une dextrit, un talent singulier prendre ses avantages en traitant; une finesse, une souplesse sans ruse qui savoit parvenir ses fins, sans irriter; une douceur et une patience qui charmoit dans les affaire; et, avec, cela, une fermet, et, quand il le falloit, une hauteur soutenir l'intrt de l'Etat et la grandeur de la couronne que rien ne pouvoit entamer ... Poli, obligeant, et jamais ministre qu'en traitant, il se fit adorer la cour ... La douceur et le sel de son commerce toient charmants, et ses conversations, sans qu'il le voulut, infiniment instructives".
This exceptionally large pastel is similar to a smaller portrait of Louis-David d'Attichy, Bishop of Riez, sold in these Rooms on 10 January 1996, lot 181, or the lighter sketched portrait of Monseigneur Philibert-Emmanuel de Lavardin from the Normand Collection sold at Christie's, Monaco, 20 June 1994, lot 14. An equally finished pastel of Monseigneur Dominique de Liguy, Bishop de Meaux, was published by G. Monnier, Inventaire des collections publiques franaises, Pastels XVIIme et XVIIIgeme Sicles, Paris, Muse du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, Paris, 1972, no. 10, illustrated.
The print after the present pastel was designed to adorn the frontispiece of a doctoral thesis of two brothers Gaspard and Claude Garrot. Theological propositions were frequently printed below the portrait of the eminent person to whom the thesis was dedicated on large sheets of paper pasted on the walls of the church before the public defence of the thesis. Later only the engraved portrait would be preserved.