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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Jeanne Marie Guyon

b. 1648, Montargis, France; d. 1717, Blois, France

A Christian mystic and prolific writer, Jeanne-Marie Guyon advocated a form of spirituality that led to conflict with authorities and incarceration. She was raised in a convent, then married off to a wealthy older man at the age of sixteen. When her husband died in 1676, she embarked on an evangelical mission to convert Protestants to her brand of spirituality, a mild form of quietism, which propounded the notion that through complete passivity (quiet) of the soul, one could become an agent of the divine. Guyon traveled to Geneva, Turin, and Grenoble with her mentor, Friar François Lacombe, at the same time producing several manuscripts: Les torrents spirituels (Spiritual Torrents); an 8,000-page commentary on the Bible; and her most important work, the Moyen court et très facile de faire oraison (The Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer, 1685). Her activities aroused suspicion; she was arrested in 1688 and committed to the convent of the Visitation in Paris, where she began writing an autobiography. Released within a few months, she continued proselytizing, meanwhile attracting several male disciples. In 1695, the Catholic church declared quietism heretical, and Guyon was locked up in the Bastille until 1703. Upon her release, she retired to her son’s estate in Blois. Her writings were published in forty-five volumes from 1712 to 1720.