Saturday, June 4, 2016

Mary Louise O’Murphy: Boucher’s Muse & Casanova and Louis XV's Nymphet

François Boucher's Girl Reclining

I’m currently reading Nabokov’s Ada and the following excerpt led me to Brian Boyd’s Ada Online annotations:

“Of the many ancestors along the wall, she pointed out her favorite, old Prince Vseslav Zemski (1699-1797), friend of Linnaeus and author of Flora Ladorica, who was portrayed in rich oil holding his barely pubescent bride and her blond doll in his satin lap.”

According to Boyd’s annotations the bride being referred to is Princess Sofia Temnosiniy. And per to Ada’s family tree, Princess Sofia Temnosiniy was approximately fourteen-years-old when she married seventy-one-year-old Prince Zemski. 

The Prince’s son, Peter Zemski, married Mary O’Reilly. Boyd wrote that “John Rea [NABOKV-L, 30 November 2004] suggests that Mary O’Reilly may also echo Mary Louise O’Murphy (or Marie-Louise or Louison Morfy or O’Morphy, 1737-1814), who became mistress to Louis XVI of France [...]. She is said both to have been [Giacomo] Casanova’s mistress first, or to have been noticed by him, and to have been at fifteen the model for [François] Boucher’s famous painting, Girl Reclining [...].”

Casanova shared in Histoire de ma vie that upon seeing thirteen-year-old O’Murphy in the nude when he visited her sister's house, he found her so alluring that he commissioned a nude portrait of the nymphet. 

It’s not clear how King Louis XV discovered O’Murphy. One theory he that he saw the painting and requested to see the original and another theory is that she was recruited by Madame de Pompadour, the king’s official chief mistress. King Louis XV impregnated O’Murphy but she had a miscarriage at fifteen but gave birth at sixteen to the king’s illegitimate child.


King Louis XV                     Giacomo Casanova


Lastly, Prince Zemski liked tape recorders and "[...] had one for every bed of his harem of schoolgirls" This may remind one of Lolita’s Humbert Humbert who said, “Idiot, triple idiot! I could have filmed her! I would have had her now with me, before my eyes, in the projection room of my pain and despair!”