Anne Picardet

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Entry by Antoinette Gimaret, 2009

Anne Picardet, born in the second half of the sixteenth century died in the first half of the following century. Her father, Gaspard Picardet was counselor to the King in the Chamber of Burgundy; her brother, Hugues Picardet was a famous member of parliament. In May 1599, she married François Forget, Sire of Moulière (or Molière) and D'Essartines (or Essertines.) Born François Molière, second of his name, he took his noble title at the end of the sixteenth century after his family acquired the Essartines domain, located in the Brionnais. In 1612, he left her a widow, with their son who was to be known as François Hugues de Molière (1599-1624), a libertine and friend of Théophile de Viau and Saint-Amant. He published a few plays and a pastoral novel that was deeply influenced by L’Astrée (La Polyxène, 1623). This is all we know about his life.

Inspired by religion, and singling herself out through her virtues and her great writing ability, poetess Anne Picardet belongs to the movement of the conversion of profane muses into sacred muses, which some Christian poets promoted at the end of the 16th century. Her only work, Les Odes spirituelles, published in 1618, was dedicated to Madame Le Grand. According to Du Mesnil (p. 32), she was the mother of Henri le Grand, Sire of Belleville, born in 1587, who became a famous comedian at the beginning of the century under the name of Belleville or Turlupin. Anne Picardet had met her before her wedding during one of her Parisian trips. It is possible that Picardet’s attachment to this woman was due to their similar fates; famous for her ‘pity’ (Dedication,) she was, however, the mother of an actor, which meant that he was condemned by the Church. The publication of her work may well be the expression of her religious spirit, in reaction to her son’s profane writings. As she explains in her Dedication, her intention is that through ‘the melody of profane songs being applied to Spiritual ones, God shall not be offended anymore by the profane voices and organs that his divine goodness gave us in order to praise him and thank him’. The overarching principle of this work is to offer spiritually inspired texts on the Passion, martyrs, saints, angels and new religious congregations using the ‘melodies’ of profane songs that were known to the public. Her poetry is typical of Counter-Reformation literature, and is marked by her desire to convert profane musical forms into devotional pieces. Furthermore, Anne Picardet’s work emanates from her own repentance and conversion, which are characterized by her desire to only use her pen and voice in order to devote herself fully to Christ. The theme of the Passion is therefore central to her work, throughout which she creates an abundance of metaphors which are borrowed for the most part from the amorous and lyrical vein of The Song of Solomon (a dialogue between God and one’s soul, between Christ as a lover and the poetess, between Christ and Marie-Madeline, the biblical lover, etc.)

This work was published again in 1619 in Paris with S. Huré; and this certainly testifies to its somewhat enduring influence in the capital, quite possibly in religious circles. It was then revised and augmented into a new edition, in which she replaces pieces of a rather personal stamp (in particular, her sonnets which evoked her late husband and the sorrows of widowhood) with poems celebrating the preeminent founders of major religious orders (Ignace de Loyola, François d'Assise, Thérès d'Avila...), as well as the striking victory of the Catholic Church against heretics. This second edition, through which the poetess inscribes herself even more saliently within the tridentine movement, was published in Lyon in 1623, which indicates that Picardet was perhaps still living at the time. Du Mesnil, relying on several notarial documents, surmises her death took place after 1632.

Her poetic production, which came out of fashion at the turn of the 17th century, did not completely fall into oblivion. She is frequently quoted in several famous women’s dictionaries, especially in those by Cosson and Riballier (1779), and by Briquet (1804). Unlike the work of Gabrielle de Coignard or that of Anne de Marquets, hers has, by and large, remained shrouded in obscurity; and a critical edition is yet to be published. (translated by Martine Sauret)


- 1618 : Odes spirituelles sur l’air des chansons de ce temps,Lyon, Claude Morillon.

- 1623 : Odes spirituelles sur l’air des chansons de ce temps. Lyon, Veuve Claude Morillon (édition revue et augmentée).

Selected bibliography

- Brémond, Henri, Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux en France,éd. François Trémolières, Grenoble, Millon, 2006.

- Cave, Terence, Devotional Poetry in France, c.1570-1613,Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1969.

- Clément, Michèle, Une Poétique de crise, poètes baroques et mystiques, 1570-1660,Paris, Champion, 1996.

- Du Mesnil, E., François de Molière Seigneur d'Essertines, Anne Picardet sa femme, et leur famille. D'après les documents authentiques,Charolles, Lamboroy, 1888.

- Packer, Dorothy S., «Collections of Chaste Chansons for the Devout Home (1613-1633)», Acta Musicologia, 61/2, 1989, p.175-216 -- [1]

Anne Picardet
Title(s) Dame de Moulières et d'Essartines
Spouses François Forget, sieur de Moulières (ou Molière) et d'Essartines
Birth date around 1580
Death after 1632
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Dictionnaire Fortunée Briquet
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