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Romance and Seduction in the 17th century in Le Marais

The beautiful Ninon

She was beautiful,smart,educated,refined and incredibly charming .

Her friends were Moliere, La Rochefoucault,Henri de Sevigné and Madame de Maintenon.

The most magnificent courtesean of them all, Ninon de Lenclos ,who could seduce young men until 70 years old.

Anne « Ninon » Lenclos was born in 1672 between a libertine father and a mother who was a religious zealot.

Her beloved father gave her the nickname Ninon and taught her to read Montaigne,how to play the luth and how to sing.

Unfortunately for Ninon, her father had to escape from France, and at 10 years old, she had to bear a mother who was very rigid .Her mother attempted to send her to convent,but Ninon said no!

She said no to the Convent. She said no to God.
She said no to the wedding. She said no to the family.

Ninon de Lenclos decided to be free in a century which did not allow freedom for women .

So she decided to be courtesan,but not a cheap one .

Thanks to her beauty and her intelligence,she became the most fashionable courtesan of the Marais….and the most expensive.

One of her Gallant bought her a Mansion in the Marais, one of the most voluptuous places of Paris

The free spirit Ninon decided that she would choose her clients and that she would leave instead of being left.

She had three kind of men :

« The Payers » who had to pay a minimum 500 Louis (4000 euros )
to have an intimate conversation with her in the cozy yellow bedroom.

 » The Martyrs » who were waiting to perhaps one day become a Payer .

« The Favorites » were the men she chose, the men she loved, and for them it was free.

The romantic Ninon became the love coach of all the Noble Knights, fathers and sons.
She taught them how to behave delicately with a woman in a salon and….in a bed.

She first had as client , Henri de Sévigné , husband of the famous French writer, Madame de Sévigné .

Henri de Sévigné , husband of the famous writer Madame de Sévigné.

Henri de Sévigné , husband of the famous writer Madame de Sévigné.


And twenty years later , after the father …she had  the son , Charles de Sévigné!.


Charles de Sévigné ,, the son of Henri and Marie Rabutin Chantal,Marquise  de Sévigné

Charles de Sévigné ,, the son of Henri and Marie Rabutin Chantal,Marquise de Sévigné


Ninon  is also the first woman who used language as an erotic’s tool.

She had her own literary salon where it was compulsory to be spiritual and forbidden to be arrogant .

If you had the privilége to be invited by Ninon, between the hours of 5 to 7pm, you would have met the most brilliant spirits of the Great Century.

The delightful Ninon would have offered you a nice cup of violet tea (her favorite beverage) or a hot chocolate, from the first chocolate shop of Paris-and the price of that chocolate was nearly a week’s salary of a Parisian worker.

You would have make jokes with Molière and Jean-Baptiste Lully, the first musician of the Sun King,would have played a magical baroque aria for you .

Moliere reading  Tartuffe chez Ninon de Lenclos  By Nicolas-André Monsiau

Moliere reading Tartuffe chez Ninon de Lenclos
By Nicolas-André Monsiau

All the aristocracy from Paris wondered how Ninon could stay so young and attractive?.
At 60 years of age she could still easily pass for a woman of 40.

In the 17th century, a woman of 40 years old was considering very old .
But not Ninon,who stayed slim and fresh all over her life thanks to a strict diet .

When people were drinking heavy wine and spicy food ,Ninon was eating light food and drinking only water.

People were thinking that water was bringing diseases.
So they did not wash …and the smell was quite obvious!.

But not Ninon.She was taking baths,and slathering Rosewater and almonds oil on her sensual body.

When the crème de la crème of women’s Paris were having red skin and hiding their spots and blemishes behind well-placed scarves and faux beauty marks ,
Ninon had white skin and an exquisite complexion with no wrinkles .




She had her little beauty secrets of course, that you can still find on the Internet .

It’s actually quite easy : applying a mixture of onion juice, almond oil and spermicia.
What was spermicia in the 17th century?.
Whale Sperm.

But don’t worry, if you can’t find whale sperm at Carrefour or Walmart, you can use bee’s wax instead ,
Fortunately, now we don’t have to smell like onion or whale sperm to have nice skin.

Ther  were plenty of women more beautiful than Ninon de Lenclos.
Ninon knew that the body is not enough.
When you want to seduce, you need to have spirit .
She could talk with men about topics they liked :philosophy, war strategy and hunting , while always staying extremely feminine.
It’s a mixture that no man can resist!.

Of course,in the 17th century you could not live the life of a scandalous woman without having a good share of troubles.

She was sent twice to a covent on orders of Anne of Austria ( the regent mother of Louis XIV ) because she was living too openly as a libertine .

Fortunately, a distinguished member of her fan club ,included the incredible Queen Christina of Sweden, set her free.

36, rue des Tournelles

36, rue des Tournelles


Before dying  ,at the ripe age of 85 on the 17th of October 1705, she met the young son of her notary , who impressed her so much that in her will she left him money to buy books .
This intelligent boy of 10 years was ..Voltaire.

If you visit Paris, don’t forget to visit the Marais at 36 ,rue des Tournelles.
If you are lucky enough, maybe you’ll hear the voluptuous Ninon whispering in your eats her secret of seduction .

« Ce n’est pas assez d’être sage, il faut plaire »

                                                    (« It’s not enough to be wise ,you have to please « )

One thought on “Romance and Seduction in the 17th century in Le Marais

  1. Thank your for this beautiful post! I love reading about the Salonnieres of Paris. Those women defined a freedom and intellectual space for all French women to come.

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