Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Catherine Deshayes

signature image

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Catherine Deshayes
b. circa 1640, France; d. 1680, Paris

The fortune teller Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin, called La Voisin, was the central figure in the "Affair of the Poisons," a lurid criminal case that implicated persons at the highest levels of French government and nobility. La Voisin's trade included the selling of love potions and poisons; her clientele were mainly upper class. She came to the attention of the police as the alleged head of a ring of satanists and abortionists. In depositions and during a trial in 1679, La Voisin and her accomplices named more than 400 highly placed people (mostly women) as customers; many of them, it was alleged, had procured her services for the purpose of poisoning a spouse or competitor. Among those named was Louis XIV's mistress. In the end, the tribunal issued thirty-six death sentences. Only La Voisin's was carried out: she was burned at the stake in a public execution in February 1680. The other offenders were sent to provincial prisons.

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