In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Antoine de la Sale

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

Medieval Studies Antoine de la Sale
Jane Taylor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0301


Antoine de La Sale (b. c. 1386–d. c. 1461) was born in Provence, the illegitimate son of a celebrated condottiero, Bernard de La Sale. He joined the court of the dukes of Anjou in 1402, probably as a page, and served as squire, soldier, and administrator, successively, to three dukes: Louis II, Louis III, and René. With Louis II, who laid claim to the kingdom of Sicily, he made visits to Italy, particularly to Sicily, traveling and exploring widely, and in 1415, taking part in a “crusade” against the Moors in the Portuguese colony of Ceuta, in North Africa (which figures briefly in Misrahi 1970). He recorded two of his more exciting adventures in his first book, La Salade (c. 1442–1444), a curious omnibus intended as a mirror for princes, but which also includes accounts of two of his own Sicilian adventures, to the cave of the Sibyl and to the Lipari Islands. His last post at the Angevin court was as gouverneur, tutor and mentor, to René’s son Jean de Calabre. In 1448 he left the service of the court of Anjou, and became gouverneur, this time to the sons of Louis de Luxembourg, count of St. Pol (thus entering the Burgundian sphere of influence, Louis being a distinguished member of their court). Here, he wrote a very miscellaneous series of works: La Sale (1451), another, and rather less alluring, pedagogical collection of moralizing anecdotes; Le Réconfort de Madame du Fresne (1458), a consolatio addressed to Catherine de Neufville, dame de Fresne, who had lost her son; Des anciens tournois et faictz d’armes (1458), a succinct but detailed treatise on the organization of tournaments and pas d’armes; La journee d’onneur et de prouesse (1459), an account in verse of an imaginary (and much idealized) tournament; and finally and most notably, Le Petit Jehan de Saintré (1456–1460), a chivalric romance, by far his best-known work and by far also his most commentated. Saintré in particular has given La Sale a reputation for wit and lightness of touch: accordingly, over the years, he has been credited with authorship of a number of 15th-century comic works: the Cent nouvelles nouvelles (he is named explicitly as author-narrator of nouvelle 50, but was sometimes thought compiler of the collection as a whole); the Quinze joyes de mariage; and the farce of Maistre Pierre Pathelin. None of these attributions is now thought plausible. La Sale is known for his profound admiration for the status and practices of chivalry, and for his wide-ranging pedagogic enthusiasms.

General Overviews

Nève 1903, although now dated, remains the starting-point for later biographies; it should be supplemented by Desonay 1940, which provides important additional documentary evidence. Coville 1941 describes the cultural environment of the court of Anjou, where La Sale spent his formative and most productive years; Lefèvre 2006 is an exemplary study of La Sale’s literary development based on manuscript evidence; Rasmussen 1958 discusses La Sale’s literary style in the broader 15th-century context, while Söderhjelm 1910 explores his stylistic debt to the nouvelle. Cochis 1998 discusses La Sale’s distinctively pedagogical output (La Salade and La Sale), again in a broader 15th-century context, while Pierdominici 1996 draws comparisons between La Sale’s explicitly instructive works and his Saintré. Pierdominici 2003 explores La Sale’s autobiographical writings and considers issues of truth and authenticity. Kastner 1918 shows definitively that earlier attribution of other 15th-century works to La Sale is mistaken.

  • Cochis, Simonetta. “Antoine de La Sale’s Delightful Teachings: Literature and Learning in His Late Medieval Books for Princes.” PhD diss., New York University, 1998.

    Focuses principally on La Sale’s explicitly pedagogical La Sale and La Salade, but also on the pedagogical early pages where Belle Cousine lectures Saintré.

  • Coville, Alfred. La vie intellectuelle dans les domaines d’Anjou-Provence de 1380 à 1445. Paris: E. Droz, 1941.

    A useful survey of the intellectual environment in which La Sale composed some of his earlier works—although he is only one of a number of other writers or works explored.

  • Desonay, Fernand. Antoine de La Sale, aventureux et pédagogue, essai de biographie critique. Bibliothèque de la Faculté de philosophie et lettres de l’Université de Liège 89. Liège, Belgium: Faculté de philosophie et lettres, 1940.

    Provides additional documentary evidence as to La Sale’s biography, although is perhaps too ardent a partisan of La Sale as adventurer.

  • Kastner, L. E. “Antoine de la Sale and the Doubtful Works.” Modern Language Review 13 (1918): 35–57, 183–207.

    DOI: 10.2307/3714262

    Rejects definitively the theory that La Sale was author of a number of additional works.

  • Lefèvre, Sylvie, ed. Antoine de La Sale: La fabrique de l’œuvre et de l’écrivain, suivi de l’édition critique du Traité des anciens et des nouveaux tournois. Publications romanes et françaises 238. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 2006.

    Indispensable study deriving largely from a close focus on the manuscripts. Brings out La Sale’s skillful self-creation and variety of voice(s). Includes a detailed study of La Sale’s blazon, in the context of 15th-century heraldry, and an invaluable critical hand-list of La Sale’s manuscripts. It also offers a much-needed full critical edition of his treatise on tournaments.

  • Nève, Joseph. Antoine de La Salle: Sa vie et ses ouvrages d’après des documents inédits. Suivi du Réconfort de madame Du Fresne d’après le manuscrit unique de la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, du Paradis de la reine Sibylle, etc. Paris: H. Champion, 1903.

    First full scholarly biography of La Sale, originally published in 1903 and reproducing a number of previously unpublished documents; remains the starting-point for subsequent biographies.

  • Pierdominici, Luca. Du pédagogique au narratif: Écriture fragmentaire et poétique de la nouvelle dans l’œuvre d’Antoine de La Sale. Lille, France: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 1996.

    Discusses La Sale’s use of the nouvelle, or short narrative, to promote his moral lessons, both in his directly pedagogical output (La Sale, La Salade) and in his Saintré, where the resultant fragmentary and digressive narrative mode suggests he is aware of, and torn between, contemporary realities and the ideals promoted by fiction.

  • Pierdominici, Luca. La bouche et le corps: Images littéraires du quinzième siècle francais. Bibliothèque du XVe siècle 65. Paris: H. Champion, 2003.

    Sets La Sale’s œuvre in its literary contexts; examines his exploration of certain persistent themes; pays particular attention to the issues of veracity which arise from his autobiographical accounts of his own adventures.

  • Rasmussen, Jens. La prose narrative française du XVe siècle: Étude esthétique et stylistique. Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1958.

    An important and wide-ranging study of form and style, with a particular focus on La Sale. Bases useful close analyses on particular passages including one (167–170) from Saintré.

  • Söderhjelm, Werner. La nouvelle française au XVe siècle. Paris: H. Champion, 1910.

    Detailed discussion of the nouvelle as developed and understood in the fifteenth century; on La Sale’s debt to the nouvelle, 73–110 (Gallica).

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