Paris: City of Light

Welcome to the Salons of Paris


Parisian Salons
 ~Salons of   Enlightenment
 ~Madame de   Stäel         
~Salons of the   Restoration
 ~The Salons of   Victor Hugo

Influence of Printed Materials
 ~Pre-Revolutionary   Timeline
 ~Post-Revolutionary   Timeline


Defining the Parisians
 ~Parisians Viewed   by Foreigners
 ~Parisians   Viewed by   Themselves
 ~Paris Fashion




PARIS - considered the center of the universe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, was the home of the salon. Well recognized all over the world, the Parisian salon served as a meeting ground for group discussion on issues of political, social, and cultural discourse. Foreigners visiting this vibrant and progressive city often made it a priority to visit a Parisian salon during their stay.

It can be said that with the beginning of the late 18th century, the Parisian salon was no longer a place of idle leisure but rather a unique social and intellectual setting, providing the opportunity for both men and women to share similar tastes and interests.

Please join me on a journey through some of the greatest Parisian salons of the late 18th and early 19th centuries where we will discover how the salons functioned and evolved in this illustrious City of Light.

Figure 1.1 Jean-François de Troy, La Lecture de Molière (1728) Courtesy of the Marquess of Chalmondeley, (Goodman, 68).

Five elegantly dressed aristocratic ladies and two men gather in a richly furnished, rococo style salon at approximately half past three in the afternoon and listen as one man reads aloud the light work of Molière, a well-known 17th century French playwright. As the reader pauses, everyone's focus seems to be wrapped elsewhere, in their own thoughts and desires. The straightforward gazes of the woman resting in the background, left of the reader, and the woman lounging in the luxurious chair to the far right of the foreground remind us that we are looking in on de Troy's artistic rendering of an 18th century salon. De Troy's painting suggests to us that this particular salon may not have been a serious, intellectual gathering, but rather a sociable assembly of mixed guests.

As we travel through a small selection of Parisian salons, you will discover that unlike the salon featured in this painting, which appears idle and frivolous, there did in fact exist salons that were more than merely social gatherings but real "working spaces" where both men and women met (Goodman, 74).