In the very beginning of the 16th century, French Queen *Anne of Brittany* ordered educated Dominican monk Antoine Dufour to compose for her a series of biographies narrating the lives of important women.
Her order was materialized in the form of “Les vies des femmes célèbres”, an illuminated manuscript where the lives of 91 historical and mythical women, from Eve to Joan of Arc, are described and depicted in a book suitable for a true female leader.
It is not difficult to think Anne seeking inspiration from great women of the past, in order to fulfill her duties. In an era when the idea of Homo Universalis represented the ideal man, it seems that certain women could follow suit, by actively developing a taste for intellect, knowledge as well as beauty, becoming patrons and inspiration of various artists, scholars, and explorers. Anne was contemporary to Spanish uber -Queen Isabella of Castille, Italian aristocrats Catherine Sforza and Isabella d’Este and two generations behind Elizabeth I of England herself. Still, despite the competition, she succeeded in leaving back a legacy of ideal queenship, traditionally being considered as one of France’s successful female rulers.
For the record, the manuscript still survives in the Dobree Museum, Nantes, France.