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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Marie de Lafayette

b. 1634, Paris; d. 1693, Paris

Prominent socialite Marie de Lafayette (La Fayette) hosted a lively salon through which she befriended important intellectuals such as the politician Cardinal de Retz, Duchess Henrietta of England, and French novelist Antoine Artaud. In 1678, she published La Princesse de Clèves anonymously. Set in the fifteenth century, it relates the tale of a young woman who maintains her virtue despite the persistent efforts of a nobleman. Lauded for its psychological insights, it is also credited as the first historical novel in France. Apart from this—her most popular book—Marie de Lafayette published Comtesse de Tende (1718), Histoire d’Henriette d’Angleterre (1720), and Mémoires de la cour de France (1731), all anonymously.