At the end of this October we are privy to communicate with the those who have passed to the other side, as promised I wish to bring to your attention a very close friend of Marie Antoinette and whose presence we can feel is here. It is the inventor of the Pouf.
We are all familiar with Marie Antoinette’s coiff, years later also immortalised by Dinah Washington or Amy Winehouse. Yet few are aware that it was Leonard Autié, not to be confused with his younger brother Jean Francois, who was Marie Antoinette’s favourite hairdresser.
So how did the Pouf come to bee? Leonard, or Monsieur Leonard as he was called, in fact was upstaged by Antoinette’s dressmaker, Rose Bertin, who in 1774 invented the “ques-a-co” (translated what is it?).
The “ques-a-co” consisted of 3 feathers stuck in the back of the lady’s head forming a question mark. (Un point d’interrogation.) The ques-a-co became incredibly popular in Paris, it is alleged that one of King Louis’ mistress disarmed him with the power of her feathers.
Monsieur Leonard had trouble digesting the ques-a-co and it was reported that his jealousy unnerved him greatly. One day in Versoix/Versailles, he couldn’t take it any more (il ne pouvait plus supporter) and in a fit went storming up and down the Galerie de Glaces (the hall of mirrors)
screaming “que-ce que c’est ce “ques-a-co? que-ce que c’est ce “ques-a-co? Bordel de merde!!!”
Monsier Leonard had been huffing and puffing, he was jumping up and down and was red in the face when he looked into a large mirror with a golden, floral frame. His golden hair was reaching up to the crystal chandeliers and he marvelled at his Pouf.
Despite the late hour he rushed into the King and Queen’s boudoir, ignoring the notice on the doorknob saying “interdit d’entrer, seance public à 8:20”, pulled Marie out from her royal bedding and performed the first coiffure à la Pouf before a half-snoring king.
Marie was enchanté and her Pouf quickly became the talk of the town. So much so that Monsieur Leonard (not to be confused with his brother who now opened a salon under the same name) decided to retire his snippets and consecrate his energy to the théatre.
Indeed in 1780 he opened, with the help of Marie-Antoinette, the first French opera house with an italian repertoire. Afraid that his brother would again steal his name he called it the “Theatre de Monsieur”. Not surprisingly many female divas performed sporting Poufs before packed and admiring audiences.
History took a dark turn for Monsieur Leonard, the French Revolution abridged an already very successful career. Marie Antoinette amongst many others went “Pouf!” as did one of the Leonard brothers -we are not sure which. What is known is that the real Leonard didn’t have any will and all he left his wife and 5 children were a couple of a hundred francs and a bird of paradise brooch given by Marie Antoinette with an estimated value of 3 francs.