Patin, Charlotte Catherine

Full Name
Patin, Charlotte Catherine
Other Names
Caroline Catherine Patin
Date Born
c. 1672
Date Died
c. 1744
Place Born
Place Died
Home Country

Writer of one of the earliest known examples of art history by a woman author; seventeenth-century femme de lettre. Patin was born in Paris, but spent a majority of her life in Padua, Italy. She came from a family of intellectuals. Her father, Charles Patin, (1633-1693) was a physician and numismatist (whose work helped the art historian Joachim von Sandart. Her grandfather, Guy Patin (1601-1672), also practiced medicine as an eminent French physician. Most distinguished of all, her mother, Magdeleine Homanet, (1640-1682), wrote moral philosophy. In 1679, Patin and her sister reunited with their father in Italy where he had fled, escaping a life sentence for the importation of seditious books. The family settled in Padua.

Patin was raised in a family that advocated for the scholarship of women. During her father's tenure the University of Padua graduated its first female doctoral candidate, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia (1646-1684) in 1678. He strongly encouraged his daughters to further their respective scholarly pursuits and obtain a doctorate. However, the University of Padua decided against awarding additional doctorates to women, thus barring Patin from obtaining her’s. Because of both her own passions for Italian art and her father’s support, she was able to publish her own work and be regarded as a scholar through the Paduan Accademia dei Ricovrati (later the Accademia Galileiana or “Galilean academy”), one of the only academic societies that accepted women during that time period. Patin's older sister, Gabrielle Patin (1666-1751), was a painter and numismatist.

There, in 1683, she delivered a Latin oration on the relief of Vienna following the siege of the Ottoman Turks. She published that oration alongside a catalogue of Italian works from Titian, Veronese, Bassano, and Tintoretto in Pitture Scelte E Dichiarate, in Italian, and Tabellae Selectae Ac Explicatae, the Latin counterpart. That year, she delivered a lecture in Latin on the siege of Vienna, which she published as Oratio de liberata civitate Vienna. Her sister, Gabrielle Charlotte (b. Paris ca. 1666), and mother, were also members of the society and wrote on theology, literature, and philosophy. Patin likewise published texts on these subjects in Latin, Italian, and French.

Her most well-known work, a critique of 41 Italian Renaissance paintings reproduced by multiple engravers, including the engraver Joseph Juster (active ca. 1690), was published in 1691 in Latin as Tabellæ selectæ ac explicatæ. The corresponding Italian translation, Pitture scelte e dichiarate, was brought out the same year. The volume also includes a print reproduction of the Patin family portrait painted by Noël Jouvenet in the late 1680s (d. 1698). Patin entered a convent in 1697, after which date her presence drops off the historical record. In 1745 a text titled Mitra, ou la Démone mariée: Nouvelle Hébraïque et morale, which she had ostensibly written in 1688, was printed by the fictitious publisher, “Démonopolis.”

Selected Bibliography
  • Oratio de liberata civitate Vienna. Padua, 1683;
  • Tabellæ selectæ ac explicatæ. Padua: Typogr. Seminarii, 1691;
  • Pitture scelte e dichiarate. [Italian translation] Padua: Appresso Pietro Marteau, 1691 1691;
  • “Relatio de literis apologeticis.” In Acta eruditorum 10 (1691): 337-340; 
  • Mitra, ou la Démone mariée: Nouvelle Hébraïque et morale. [1688, Padua]; Démonopolis, 1745;
  • Briquet, Marguerite Ursule Fortunée. “Patin, (Charlotte-Catherine, et Gabrielle-Charlotte).” Dictionnaire historique, littéraire et bibliographique des françaises, et des étrangères naturalisées en France. pp. 257-258. Paris: Gillé, 1804;
  • Feller, François-Xavier de. “Patin (Charlotte et Gabrielle).” Biographie universelle, ou Dictionnaire des hommes qui se sont fait un nom. p. 392. New edition, volume 6. Paris: J. Leroux, Jouby, 1849;
  • Hoefer, M. Le Dr. “Patin (Magdeleine Homanet, Dame).” Nouvelle biographie générale : Depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’à nos jours. pp. 331-333. Volume 39. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1865;
  • Le Moyne, Nicolas Toussaint. “Patin, (Charlotte et Gabrielle).” Les Siècles littéraires de la France. p. 107. Volume 5. Paris: Auteur, 1801;
  • Moreri, Louis. “Patin. (Charlotte-Catherine, & Gabrielle-Charlotte).” Supplément au grand Dictionnaire historique , généalogique, géographique, &c. de M. Louis Moreri. p. 22. Volume 2. Paris: La Veuve Lemercier, etc., 1735;
  • “Collections Online: British Museum.” Collections Online | British Museum. Accessed October 22, 2020.;
  • “Patin, Charlotte Catherine.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists, October 31, 2011.