Léontine Lippmann

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Photography of Madame Armand de Caillavet

Léontine Lippmann (1844–1910), better known by her married name of Madame Arman or Madame Arman de Caillavet was the muse of Anatole France and the hostess of a highly fashionable literary salon during the French Third Republic. She is the model of Madame Verdurin in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.[citation needed]


Born into a wealthy Jewish family as a banker's daughter, she married Albert Arman. Arman's mother's maiden name was Caillavet and so they called themselves Arman de Caillavet. They had one child, the playwright Gaston Arman de Caillavet. Neither of them was faithful to the other, though they never divorced.

Beautiful in her youth, with clear blue eyes, black hair, and a mocking mouth, she was intelligent, cultivated and spoke four languages. She often attended the salons of Lydie Aubernon and it was there that she met Anatole France, in 1883. From 1888 there followed years of a passionate, exclusive liaison between the pair, often all the stormier for the jealousy of both parties. She inspired his Thaïs (1890) and Le Lys rouge (1894).


Mme de Caillavet started her own salon [1] in the hôtel particulier at 12 avenue Hoche, near the Place de l'Étoile. Sitting in a bergère to the right of the fireplace, with Anatole France standing in front of the fireplace, every Sunday she welcomed the French fashionable, intellectual and political elites, including writers, actors, lawyers and députés (but not musicians, since she or France did not like music). On Wednesdays, Mme de Caillavet held conversational dinners on the model of those of Mme Aubernon, where could be found Alexandre Dumas, the Hellenist Brochard, Professor Pozzi, Leconte de Lisle, José-Maria de Heredia, Ernest Renan and, of course, Anatole France.


Count Giuseppe Primoli, Jean-Élie, Duke Decazes; Prince and Princess Bibesco, Baron and Baroness Rothschild, Robert de Montesquiou, Anna de Noailles, Louis Barthou, Marie and Pierre Curie, Marcel Proust, Count de Lisle, J.-H. Rosny the elder, Gabriel Hanotaux, Marcel Prévost, Pierre Loti, Maurice Barrès, Marcelle Tinayre, Sarah Bernhardt, the actress Réjane, Fernand Gregh, abbé Mugnier, the actor Lucien Guitry and his son Sacha Guitry, the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, the painter Munkacsy, Hugo Ogetti, Commandant Rivière, Georg Brandes, Jules Lemaitre, Gugliemo Ferrero, the abbot and astronomer Théophile Moreux, Colette and her first husband Henry Gauthier-Villars (known as Willy), Marcel Schwob, Robert de Flers, Paul de Grunebaum, Charles Rappoport, François Crucy, Michel Corday, Joseph Reinach, Tristan Bernard, the dancer Loïe Fuller, Georges Clemenceau, Prof. Samuel-Jean Pozzi, Dr. Paul-Louis Couchoud, Aristide Briand, Léon Blum, Jean Jaurès, Léopold Kaher, Pierre Mille, Charles Maurras and Raymond Poincaré.


  1. ^ "...a Jewish friend, Mme. Caillavet.. gave [Anatole France] a salon in her house...and she probably had a good deal to do with his championship of Dreyfus, which contributed to bring about the retrial and pardon of 1899." Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station, p. 57


  • Jeanne Maurice Pouquet, Le Salon de Madame Arman de Caillavet, 1926.
  • George Painter, Marcel Proust, London, Cratton and Windus, 1959