La préciosité was a social and literary movement that focused on subtlety of words and personality, and was the first feminine-led movement in literary history. This movement was led by the aristocratic women of the time. These women, who were often also owners of salons, boudoirs, or lounges, offered a space for this aesthetic concept to flourish away from the prying eyes of society during the 17th century in France. The women who led this movement aspired to control every aspect of their lives, to be the writers of their own story. They rejected the crassness of the Parisian aristocracy, instead favoring refinement and delicacy over anything crude or vulgar. Codes, constructed by the witty, well-educated women of the time, were written to be followed by those who chose to follow the movement.
One of the most well-remembered women who led this movement was Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet. The Chambre bleue of her hôtel particulier was one of the most frequented of the time, welcoming not only women who took part in the movement, but also poets, authors, and amateurs of writing. Catherine de Vivonne designed the interior herself, adorning the walls with blue velvet framed in gold and silver, blue upholstery, and a painting of a clear blue sky to finish off the ocean of blue. This choice in and of itself was a way of rejecting the Parisian aristocracy, during a time in which the French aristocrats considered the only acceptable interior color scheme to be a combination of red and tan.
Those who gave in to the influence of la préciosité received both admiration and mockery. On the one hand, poets, writers, and daydreamers of the time admired the movement, using inspiration from the ideals and philosophies in their everyday works. Others, like Molière, mocked these women for their complicated jargon and attention to manners. Molière wrote two plays to mock la préciosité. These two plays, Les Précieuses ridicules (1659) and Les femmes savantes (1672), mock the movement. The complicated jargon and attention to manners became the punchline of many jokes, while Molière artfully crafted his complex storylines about the women of the time who lived under this movement’s influence.
The literary movement advanced women’s rights during the time. The ideology of what La préciosité is supported the progressive ideas of the time, especially those regarding women’s rights to education, marriage, and life choices.