Théodore Chassériau, François VI, duc de la Rochefoucauld, 1836, Oil on canvas 

François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680) did not invent the form known as the maxim, but instead, fairly early in its history, merely perfected it. Defying any notion of progress in the arts, nobody has come along in more than three centuries who has done it better; he remains unsurpassed. “We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others,” he wrote, and later, not gilding but crushing the...

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