- a cultural institution dating back to the first half
of the 17th century in Paris, came forth as an extension of the
institutionalized court where royal women of leadership had entertained
the city elite since the early 16th century.
The Parisian salons
were distinguished from the cercle,
the all-male literary circles and the society of cabarets and
Paris due to the dominance of women in them. Aristocratic
and upper bourgeoisie women known as salonnières
ran and organized the salons from their homes. These
great salonnières set the tone and aims of the gatherings,
helping to intermingle the writers, artists, philosophers and
other various patrons present.
During 1770 through
1830, the city of Paris experienced a plethora of change and growth;
politically, socially, and culturally. The arrival and departure
of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Restoration
each left their own indelible marks on the Parisian salon.
Salons of the Enlightenment:
- Enlightenment salons
brought forth a new element of "seriousness and regularity"
to the salon as they formed the social base of the Republic
of Letters and thus contributed to the social project of the
Enlightenment (Goodman, 89).
Geoffrin, a salonnière,
served as an ideal mentor and model for other salonnières
of the time bringing forth two important changes in her salons.
of Madame de Stäel:
- This amazing
Mme. de Stäel was
the connecting link between the 18th and 19th centuries. She
was born of the Revolution and lived to see the new condition
of French society, which was ushered in by the Battle of Waterloo.
versus Napoleon Bonaparte:
establishment of the First Consul, the passionate, democratic
ambitions of Mme. de Stäel collided with the militaristic,
autocratic aims of Napoleon.
of the Restoration:
- Following the end
of Napoleon's dictatorial reign, the
Salons of the Restoration once again brought
together Parisian men and women for social and intellectual
as one of the celebrated salonnières of this time.
She was known for not only her skills as a salonnière
but for her striking beauty as well.
discussing the leadership of Parisian women in the salons,
it should be mentioned that a controversy exists between two schools
- The salonnières
were bright women
who, regardless of their social class, where given the chance
to step out of the shadows of their dull and limiting pre-determined
place in society and could enjoy much more independence
than the majority of Parisian women.
- The salonnières
lived empty lives of
idleness, turning their backs on their families and
household duties and doing nothing of importance in their