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Navigating the Confusing Terrain of Love With a 350-Year-Old Map

This French map was a feminist take on the path to a woman’s heart.

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The Carte de Tendre is an allegorical map of the different stages on the journey to love. (All photos: François Chauveau/Public Domain)

The Carte de Tendre presents an intriguing landscape, for it is one that is completely imaginary. This mid-17th century French map shows the fictional land of Tendre, which functions as an allegory for the oft-perplexing landscape of love. It first appeared as an engraving in author Madeleine de Scudéry’s novel Clélie.

The map was originally created by Scudéry and her salon in order to literally map out an answer to the question: “what must one do to become a “tendre ami” [lover]?” 

The map charts several courses to three destinations: Recognition (Tendre-sur-Reconnaissance), Inclination (Tendre-sur-Inclination), and Esteem (Tendre-sur-Estime). Each indicates a successful outcome for the would-be lover, beginning at the same point: Nouvelle Amité, or “New Friendship.” From “New Friendship,” the would-be lover can take three different routes to love.

From Nouvelle Amité, a lover can take several different routes, but the wrong ones pass through the villages of Wickedness and Pride and into the Sea of Enmity. 

The fastest path to love is via the river of Inclination, an analogy for mutual affection. The other two routes involve passing through several allegorical villages. A man desiring to find his way into a lady’s heart by having her recognize his worth must travel through villages such as Generosity (Generosité) and Love Letter (Billet Doux) to arrive at Esteem.

Meanwhile, a man looking to arrive at Recognition by showering attention upon the lady of his desires must first stop over at Little Trinkets (Petit Soins), Tenderness (Tendresse) and Obedience (Obéissance).  

Should a lover take the wrong path, he risks falling into the Lake of Indifference.

Should the man pass through villages like Gossiping (Médisance) and Wickedness (Méschanceté), he lies in danger of falling into the Mer d’Inmitié, or the Sea of Enmity. Likewise, if he ends up in Negligence or Inequality (Negligence, Inegalité) or Oversight (Oubli), he risks falling into the Lac d’Indiference, or Lake of Indifference. 

The Carte de Tendre is a map with feminist leanings: it “privileged the private amorous contract contingent on woman’s inclination for and judgement in favor of a lover,” explains Pamela Cheek in Sexual Antipodes: Enlightenment, Globalization, and the Placing of Sex“It thus posited an alternative to the official marriage contract of interest controlled and instituted … by men.”

Map Monday highlights interesting and unusual cartographic pursuits from around the world and through time. Read more Map Monday posts.