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Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Portrait of Diderot. Oil on canvas. 82 x 65 cm. Louvre, Paris, France. More. [Order a Print][Order a Hand-Painted Reproduction]

Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Portrait of Diderot.

Denis Diderot was a French philosopher and writer during the Age of Enlightenment, best known for being the coauthor of the Encyclopédie. He was born in the city of Langres in 1713 and studied at the Lycée Louis le Grand. In 1732 he earned a master of arts degree in philosophy and decided to study law instead of joining the clergy. However, two years hence he changed his mind again and decided to become a writer, for what he was disowned by his father and spent the next ten years living a somewhat vagabond way of life.

In 1743 he married Antoinette Champion, even though the match was considered inappropriate because of her low social and fatherless status, poor education and lack of a dowry. The couple had only one surviving child, Angelique, named after Diderot’s mother and late sister.

Diderot did not receive much fame or money during his life despite his arduous work and was even forced to sell his library to provide his daughter with a dowry. Catherine II of Russia then bought the library and requested that Diderot keep the books in Paris until she required them and work as her librarian for a yearly salary.

Diderot died in 1784 in Paris. He was buried in the city’s Église Saint-Roch.

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