L’académie des dames (The School of Women) is Emmanuel Murzeau’s modern-day reworking of Nicolas Chorier’s 1793 erotic classic, written in the form of a series of dialogues between Tullia, a twenty-six-year-old woman, and her young cousin Otavia, with whom she is charged with her sexual initiation.

Chorier (1612–92) was a French lawyer, writer, and historian. He practised as a lawyer in Grenoble and then as a prosecutor for King Louis XIV. His works on the Dauphiné period remain an important source for historians.

Chorier’s text was in turn a reworking of a work which first appeared as a work in Latin entitled Aloisiae Sigaeae, Toletanae, Satyra sotadica de arcanis Amoris et Veneris (Aloisiae Sigaeae of Toletana, a Satire in the Style of Sotades on the Mysteries of Love and Venus). The manuscript claimed that it was originally written in Spanish by Luisa Sigea de Velasco, a poet and maid of honour at the court of Lisbon, which was then translated into Latin by Jean or Johannes Meursius, a humanist professor teaching history in Leiden. Even though the attribution was a complete fabrication, the manuscript circulated through the libertine community at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and was known under many different titles.

Murzeau brings Tullia and Otavia solidly into the twenty-first century, cleverly combining supposedly antique initiation advice and modern angst about everything from nudity to marriage.

Unfortunately the colour reproduction in the book does no justice at all to Emmanuel Murzeau’s stylish artwork, making everyone look badly jaundiced. We have done our best to correct the colour here, and bring you something closer to what we imagine the artist intended.

L’académie des dames is published by Tabou.