Salon culture

April 11, 2012 | | Comments Off on Salon culture

Although many variations existed, nineteenth-century salons shared some general characteristics. They were regular gatherings in private homes of mostly elite men and women, who came primarily to talk, but also to see and hear short theatrical and musical performances, to listen to readings from literary texts or memoirs, to play games, and/or to watch artists improvise. Often salons were presided over by a salonnière or hostess (though male-led salons were also an important category), whose role was to facilitate conversation, and generally, to bind together the assembled group. Though several historians have argued that the role of salonnière, with its requirements for politeness and agreeableness, reinscribed gender norms linked with patriarchy, and thus should not be considered proto-feminist, some women were able to use their salons to exert significant influence on artistic and political affairs when doing so by other means was very difficult. Indeed, it was precisely the salon’s associations with a feminized private sphere that allowed it to function effectively as a sheltered space of conciliation during periods of political factionalism, and as a means of integration for social groups excluded from more public arenas.


Julia Peery


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