Salon (gathering)

From Academic Kids

The salon is a 17th century French idea, a gathering of stimulating and attractive people of quality under the roof of an inspiring hostess, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation and readings, consciously following Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "to please and educate" (aut delectare aut prodesse est).

In 16th-century Italy some scintillating circles that formed in the smaller courts were often galvanized by the presence of a beautiful and educated patroness such as Isabella d'Este or Elisabetta Gonzaga.

The first literary salons of Paris formed in the 1620s at the Hôtel de Rambouillet by Madame de Rambouillet and at the rival salon that gathered around Madeleine de Scudéry. Here gathered the original "blue-stockings" (les bas-bleues), whose nickname continued to mean "intellectual woman" for the next 300 years. In the salons of Paris, the précieuses refined the French language even before the Académie Francaise was founded.

The 18th century salons brought together Parisian society and the progressive philosophes who were producing the Encyclopédie, Marmontel remarks about Julie de Lespinasse suggest the secret of the salon in French culture:

"The circle was formed of persons who were not bound together. She had taken them here and there in society, but so well assorted were they that once there they fell into harmony like the strings of an instrument touched by an able hand."

Such a woman in German circles, inspiring to writers and artists, perhaps without an artistic bent herself, was called a muse.

Paris salons of the 18th century:

Some 19th-century salons were more inclusive, verging on the raffish, and centered around painters and "literary lions" such as Mme Récamier. After the shocks of 1870, French aristocrats tended to withdraw from the public eye. Marcel Proust called on his own turn-of-the-century experience to recreate the rival salons of the fictional Duchesse de Guermantes and Madame Verdurin.

Public "Salons"

A more public Salon of another kind also had a formative influence on French high culture. The Paris Salon was originally an officially-sanctioned exhibition of recent works by members of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, starting in 1673 and soon moving from the Salon Carré of the Palace of the Louvre.

The name remained, even when other quarters were found and the exhibitions' irregular intervals became biennial. A jury system of selection was introduced in 1748. For details of the Salon's development, see Paris Salon.

External links: private salons

External links: juried exhibitions

fr:salon littéraire de:Literarischer Salon

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