See also the article "Le salon : un modèle de sociabilité pour les élites européennes?" in the EHNE.
No lesser personage than Voltaire (1694–1778)described how the French esprit de société radiated to the whole of Europe.1 The French salon also became a Europe-wide phenomenon. However, the term "salon" itself is the subject of academic debates. In the last 30 years, intercultural, interdisciplinary research on the phenomenon of the "salon" has made considerable progress. The list of research literature below provides an overview of the fruitful debates and varied approaches involved.2 In the discussion below, "salon" does not refer to all kinds of elegant reception conviviality. Similarly, the evenings organized by men, which were also referred to in France as "salons", are not considered here. Here salon refers to a specific form of conversational conviviality, which has a particular social-historical and intellectual-historical relevance, involving men and women around a female host with a particularly attractive personality. Like Christine de Pizan's allegorical cité des femmes, the salon in its intellectual sense (over and above its concrete forms) became a topos of a feminine cultural space in Europe.3
Female-dominated salons differed in their structure from the social gatherings of male hosts, and advanced the freedom and intellectual self-realization of women in various ways and to varying degrees (even if the husbands often played a more prominent role in the salons, as legend has it). At a time when women still had a subservient status legally and socially, the salon enabled them to explore their social, intellectual, and literary and cultural leanings and capacities. Salons represented an aesthetically-designed feminine ambience in the home, the traditional domain of the woman.4 Here, the woman set the tone of conversation and had the last word. She also appeared as a natural conciliator and mediator. The salon of a lady was also a space closed off from the outside world, where a particular style of conviviality was cultivated.
Intercultural Transfer Processes: Naming, Structure and Genesis of Salons
The phenomenon and its names
In the 16th and 17th centuries, in addition to non-specific terms such as conversation and société the new phenomenon of salon conviviality was referred to using more concrete terms such as bureau d'esprit or simply by the time and place (chez Mme de ..., chambre bleue, ruelles, samedis).5 Drawing on a long-standing tradition from early humanism, the salons were also referred to as (convivial) academies.6 The art exhibitions in the salon carré of the Louvre were referred to as "salons" from the mid-18th century due to the location (from the Italian salone, meaning large hall). The term implied something recurring regularly. The earliest instances of "salon" referring to a social gathering come from the end of the ancien régime.7 Daily or weekly social gatherings started to be referred to as "salons" in . These salons became stimulating institutions of social interaction; some of them naturally developed into important conversational salons or "literary salons". The historical term bureau d'esprit, which tended to have sarcastic connotations, was replaced in the early-19th century by salon (initially salon académique) when referring to social gatherings in the tradition of the Hôtel de Rambouillet8.
The fact that the term "literary salon" (salon littéraire) ultimately became dominant does not mean that only literature was discussed. At the centre of these events was conversation ranging over a variety of topics and combined with other convivial activities.9 When one takes into account the spectrum of meaning of "literary" in its broadest sense (including the sciences and the arts), then the term "literary salon" appears appropriate for the basic form of the salon.10 Literary discussions formed the basis for conversation about general human affairs and created a bridge to philosophical and potentially educational, as well as critical and rationalizing conversation in a light tone.11 In the salon, conversation ranged widely with open changes in topic, and even salons with specific preferences or focuses (music, politics, the creative arts, etc.) were also conversational salons.12 Thematic classifications thus help to structure the historiography, but they also obscure the function of the salon as a mediating institution between different social and cultural areas. A salon evening did not have a programme. Prearranged readings by poets or concerts were rare – and they were often improvised where necessary. As salons drew together many strands of social life and of mondanité, they also represented a kind of meta-conviviality, which was suitable for the discussion of many impressions gleaned elsewhere.
Conversation was at the heart of the salon, even if those present dined together (forms and times changed). After the meal, other friends and acquaintances joined the company in an informal way. As the fashion for drinking tea grew, the conversational conviviality increasingly shifted to the tea after the meal during the 18th century. Subsequently, it completely shifted to the tea time in many cases, and "tea" (which did not involve much catering) consequently became a synonym for salon conviviality.13 Normative literature helped to consolidate a tradition, which meant that the ideals of salon conviviality remained relatively stable. In 1858, the salonnière Virginie Ancelot (1792–1875) described an ideal salon by citing the characteristics of continuity, urbanity, connection with the hostess, trust and politeness among the guests, appreciation of the real achievements of each individual, and the primacy of esprit over rank and wealth.14
The interest of broad sections of the population in elegantly furnished salons and stereotypical ideas of historical salon conviviality gave rise to an inflationary trend in the 19th century, which soon became a large burden on the perceptions of the salon. Some women tried to use their "salon" for social advancement.15 The hostesses of the real conversational salons ("salonnières" was an artificial word which emerged later) generally spoke very simply about their "Thursdays" etc. (jour fixe). Salon plagiarism became a popular topos in novels (similar to Molière's play Précieuses Ridicules).16 Common composite terms such as "salon music" and "salon poet" had connotations of triviality with a misogynistic undertone.17
The intercultural genesis of salon culture
The theory of European conversational culture reaches back to classical antiquity.18 From the Renaissance onward, knowledge of these classical traditions influenced female-dominated conviviality.19 Both chivalric courtly culture and aristocratic culture, as well as the participation of women in humanist conviviality became components of salon conviviality.20 The invention of printing aided the dissemination of poetically idealized versions of such circles.21
In Margaret of Navarre (1492–1549) and Margaret of Valois (1553–1615), also provided inspiration for the emergence of the salon, as did François Rabelais (ca. 1490–1553). His famous utopia of the academy of Thélème aimed to enable men and women to have a free, self-determined philosophical life.22 The earliest Paris salons in the narrower sense emerged in the last third of the 16th century. The most prominent example was the cabinet vert of the classically educated Catherine de Clermont, Duchess of Retz (1543–1603), in which eclectic conversations occurred.23, humanistically-minded royal ladies, such as
The salon of Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet (1588–1665) played an important role in influencing the further development of salons and in establishing the salon tradition.24 The conversation was a mixture of serious and jovial, and she also enjoyed love casuistry and love poetry in the style of Petrarch, as well as music and short plays. Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac (1597–1654) lauded Madame de Rambouillet as a worthy successor of the Romans and documented her interest in classical Roman oratory in a Discours dedicated to her, in which another catchword which was important for salons appeared: urbanité.25 Neo-stoical ideas among learned people – where Latin still remained the dominant medium – and references to the chivalric Arcadia, which was conjured up in the novels of the time, contributed to the lively intellectual atmosphere of the salons.26 The concepts of politesse and honnêteté in the salons were initially a code of behaviour in the aristocratic milieu, which could be adapted by recently ennobled people (in the 17th century even the nobility was subject to change) and the bourgeoisie.27 Ideas from the Essais by Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) explicitly supported the right of educated laypeople to participate in intellectual life, including and especially in a convivial, non-pedantic, improvised form. Jean Chapelain (1595–1674) enthused that in the Hôtel de Rambouilletthe conversation was not scholarly, but reasonable, that no other place contained more healthy human understanding and less pedantry.28 Salon conviviality combined both, intellectual conversation in an aristocratic ambience and a forum for good (as determined by women) taste in literary, artistic and moral affairs.
Around 1600, the salons also contributed to the refinement of conversation in the vernacular on the basis of classical education. The translatio studiorum, i.e. the translatio imperii of the humanist disciplines from Italy to France, assisted this development.29 In other countries also, salon culture blossomed in a symbiosis with national literatures, a development which had long since occurred in Italy. In the German-speaking territory, where the Thirty Years' War hindered this development, Sprachgesellschaften (language societies) and poets' circles that included women – as well as "printed salons" in the form of published conversations – performed some of the functions of real salons.30
The French Salons of the Ancien Régime and Their Influence on Europe
The French salons of the ancien régime
The individual construct of salon conviviality in the Hôtel de Rambouillet and in the salons of its successors were in a complex mutual relationship with the tradition of humanist education as well as with the ideal of honnêteté (French for honesty, uprightness), which was propounded by authors such as Nicolas Faret (ca. 1596–1646) and Jacques Du Bosc (ca. 1600–1664).31 However, while the primary purpose of the salons was to cultivate a humanistic, aristocratic lifestyle, important secondary functions also emerged. The salon could be utilized as a feminine free space and as a sphere of influence, whether in the area of intellectual creativity or politics. Salonnières such as Anne Geneviève de Bourbon-Condé, Duchess de Longueville (1619–1679) and Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orléans de Montpensier (1627–1693) participated in the Fronde rebellion. In the second half of the 17th century, the salons continued to exist in a tension between the individual, the court and society. However, the aspects of pessimism and escaping from the world now appeared too. The communication and retreat spaces of salon culture could even be found in the Port-Royal de Paris monastery, where Madeleine Marquise de Sablé (1598–1678) explored the human psyche (witness the fashion for "portraits" and character descriptions, which were designed as a jeu d'esprit) and discussed with friends her Neoplatonic ideas about the educative value of love and of abstinence.32 The letters of Marquise Marie de Sévigné (1626–1696), which were published in 1725 and quickly circulated throughout Europe in countless editions, introduced a broad public to the Paris salon circles of the time.
The literary emancipation of women repeatedly provoked resentment.33 This was the case also with Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701), who as a representative of préciosité tried to advance the spiritualization of love and a feminine language as well as rhetoric.34 Molière's (1622–1673) comedy Les Précieuses Ridicules about clumsy imitations of refined conversation created a misleading picture of authentic précieuses, which created a general suspicion of mannerism against the women of salon circles. Mademoiselle de Scudéry explored the conviviality of Madame de Rambouillet in her key novels and founded her samedis (in full bloom in the period 1653–1659), at which Cartesianism, literature and friendship (amitié tendre) were discussed.35 Her novels, and subsequently also her Conversations which were published separately, became classics of honnêtetéand like the other classics were read, translated and imitated throughout Europe.36
The death of Louis XIV (1638–1715) did not bring about dramatic change for salons, even if the salon circles of the Régence – led by the eccentric Duchess Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon-Condé du Maine (1676–1753) and Claudine Marquise de Tencin (1681–1749) – with their thirst for knowledge and life suggest otherwise.37 The continuing influence of the king's widow, Marquise Françoise de Maintenon (1635–1719), was manifested among other things by her niece Marthe-Marguerite Marquise de Caylus (1673–1729), who was considered a model of urbanité.38 Anne-Thérèse Marquise de Lambert (1647–1733) was another link between the periods. She emphasized her independence from the tastes of the time, compared the Hôtel de Rambouillet with Plato's symposia, and wrote pointedly that the brilliant amusements at the Hôtel ruined neither one's morals nor one's wallet.39 The first bourgeois salonnière in Paris, Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin (1699–1777), by no means received unreserved social acceptance. She structured her salon, which was orientated towards patronage, as a convivial matriarchy.40
The Paris salons did not go unnoticed by new European communication channels such as Melchior Grimm's (1723–1807) Literary Correspondence (Correspondance Littéraire).41 Marquise Marie du Deffand (1697–1780), who had gone blind at a comparatively young age, enjoyed great fame as a master of conversation, as well as for her international circle of guests and her correspondence.42 When in 1754 Madame du Deffand took in her niece Julie de Lespinasse (1732–1776) and familiarized her with holding a salon, their shared interest was "the study of mankind, of his soul and his passions as revealed in the closed world of one room".43 After the two women parted company (1764), Mademoiselle de Lespinasse demonstrated her own convivial qualities in a salon of her own, in which she "was able to ... reconcile the most different, even sometimes contradictory minds".44 Such virtuosity was not evident in all of the salons of Paris at the end of the ancien régime.
At this time, conviviality – including that of salon society – suffered from a stiffening of form, as well as from intellectual and aesthetic feuds, and tensions between new ideas and surviving traditional ordering concepts of honnêteté.45 This crisis was also reflected in the conflicts that Suzanne Necker (1739–1794) was drawn into as a result of her salon. As a bourgeois Protestant from , she was an outsider in established Paris salon circles and she condemned the superficiality and craving for distraction of the latter. Her critique remained private and literary, but it was an indication of the state of salon culture, which was no longer a free "Wunschraum" (wish space), but was dominated by group conformity with the leading circles. Madame Necker's love of literature and her willingness to (outwardly) conform helped her salon and indirectly also the career of her husband Jacques Necker (1732–1804). When he became finance minister in 1776 under Louis XVI (1754–1793), the salon became noticeably political in character. From the late-1780s, her daughter Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817)was also active in literature and politically engaged.46 At that time, crisis symptoms of conviviality were frequently identified. The strongest critics of the grand monde were Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and the moralists of the late ancien régime.47 Rousseau's views did not prevent him from becoming a famous frequenter of salons, where he had numerous female patrons.48
The reception of early salon culture outside France
Already in the 18th century, the ladies of the early Paris salons were immortalized in literature.49 Travellers, diplomats, exiled Huguenots, and after 1789 the emigrants of the revolutionary period served as direct ambassadors of the salons. Of course, the social circumstances were far less favourable for the emergence of salons in other cities than in the populous French metropole, in which an influential high society set the tone culturally and politically. Consequently, salon-type conviviality emerged outside of France initially primarily in Francophone court circles or was initiated by female poets, who gathered convivial circles around themselves.
The Italian women who had also contributed to the formation of the Paris salons went their own – if similar – way in salon conviviality. In Christina of Sweden (1626–1689) and in the 18th century the painter Angelika Kauffmann (1741–1807). Up to 1800, salon conviviality was usually referred to as accademia or conversazione (contact, gathering, conversation).50 Then beginning with the term salotto di conversazione, the term salotto became established (but not salone/salon).51 The rich culture and the political fragmentation of Italy assisted the emergence of salons in many cities. In , there was the convivial hybrid of the casino. Venitian women hosted their friends in the chambres separées of the inns on the Piazza San Marco, where they engaged in relaxed conversation without etiquette.52, the old centre of western history and culture, it was not only Roman aristocratic women who cultivated conviviality, but also outsiders who had made Rome their home, such as the ex-queen
French salon culture had a demonstrable influence in Henriette Adelheid of Savoy (1636–1676), Eleonore d'Olbreuse, Duchess of Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Celle (1639–1722) and Queen Sophie Charlotte of Prussia (1668–1705).53 The early salons in the imperial city of Vienna, where French, Italian and German were spoken, were strongly musical.54 The decline of the cities and the confessional and linguistic fragmentation of Germany after the Thirty Years' War meant that German-speaking salons emerged late and were initially scarce. Christiane Mariane von Ziegler (1695–1760), a patrician poet, translated Mademoiselle de Scudéry's Conversations and founded the first German salon in around 1723.55 In the last third of the 18th century, an increasing number of women became involved in literary and artistic circles.56 Here and there between and salons emerged in which the bourgeoisie and educated nobles were brought together by their shared literary and musical interests, for example in Ehrenbreitstein at the home of the writer Sophie von La Roche (1730–1807).57, for example at the courts in , and under Electress
In 58 As a traditional alliance partner of France, had a pro-French party among the nobility. Among this party, mothers, daughters and daughters-in-law of the aristocratic de la Gardie family, which was politically active and interested in literature, theatre, music and science, brought forth a dynasty of salonnières.59 Catherine Charlotte Countess de la Gardie, née Taube (1723–1763), a lady-in-waiting of Queen Louisa Ulrika (1720–1782), had the last witch trial in Sweden stopped in 1758.60 In , the salon of Countess Charlotte Schimmelmann (1757–1816) was international in tone, both culturally and politically. As the capital of different territories held together in a personal union by the king of Denmark, Copenhagen played a particularly important role in German-Danish cultural relationships, for example through the support that the Danish royal family and nobility provided to German poets. Ladies from the interrelated Schimmelmann, Bernstorff, Baudissin and Reventlow families with an interest in literature cultivated aristocratic conviviality in rural as well as salon gatherings in Copenhagen in the winter (the "Nordic circle").61, early salon conviviality developed primarily in aristocratic circles.
In 62 Around 1780, Elizabeth Montagu (1720–1800) put the ideas of salon conviviality into practice in modified form in . The ladies of the Bluestocking Circle held salon gatherings at alternating meeting places.63 In Enlightenment in the late-18th century, the "auld alliance" with France and the Paris connections of David Hume (1711–1776) promoted openness to salons, though these were of a local flavour. The poet Alison Cockburn (1712–1794) invited her friends, who included David Hume and the young Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), to her tiny flat, where the hospitality was very simple: "It was a miniature salon, with Scots tongues, broad, voluble and homely."64 Around 1810, the salon of Jane Apreece (1780–1855), who later married the chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829), had a special status in Edinburgh because the hostess was acquainted with Madame de Staël.65, a tradition of literary gatherings at landed estates remained the predominant form for a long time.
Paris Salon Culture in the 19th Century
The French Revolution felt like a break with the past, but it by no means spelt the end of the salons.66 Up to 1792, Madame de Staël and Manon Roland (1754–1793) attempted to influence current events with their political salons. As soon as the Terreur was over, the salons opened their doors again in mid-1794. After 1799, Madame de Staël's salon was increasingly viewed with suspicion by Napoleon (1769–1821), and she herself was banished for political reasons during the imperial period.67 Her writings, her travels and her international salon at Coppet Castleon Lake Geneva made her – for a long time after her early death in 1817 – a mediator between the cultures, a trailblazer for romanticism in France, and an authority on the relationship between literature and society, conversation and company.68
The period of peace and Restoration after 1815 favoured the emergence of new salons and witnessed a growing stream of European travellers coming to Paris.69 The most significant salon in the period between 1815 and 1848 was led by Madame de Staël's friend Juliette Récamier (1777–1849)in the Abbaye-aux-Bois.70
During the Restoration and the July monarchy, the growing latitude for political conversation turned many salons of diplomats and the aristocracy into political salons.71 For example, the political salons of Adèle Countess Boigne (1781–1866)and of the Russians Princess Dorothea Lieven (1784–1857) and Sophie Swetchine (1782–1857) had an international flavour to them. The salon in exile of the Italian Princess Cristina Belgiojoso (1808–1871) provided a meeting point for supporters of the national unification of Italy. Other salonnières of this time, including Stéphanie-Félicité Countess de Genlis (1746–1830), Laure Junot, Duchess d'Abrantès (1784–1838), Sophie Gay (1776–1852) and her daughter Delphine de Girardin (1804–1855), and Virginie Ancelot (1792–1875), were also successful writers. A number of salonnières viewed some developments in salon culture in the 1830s as indicative of a crisis, for example, the writer Marie d'Agoult (1805–1876), the some-time friend of Franz Liszt (1811–1886) and mother of Cosima Wagner (1837–1930). Her much-quoted description of the typical conventional salonnière as being driven by social ambition and a self-negating cult around a famous man was a clear criticism and a personal distancing. Madame d'Agoult found her own style for her salon, which had a strong musical and literary flavour to it.72
The Englishwoman Mary Clarke-Mohl (1793–1883) represented a salon concept that was free of stereotypes. She was in the tradition both of Madame de Staël and of Madame Récamier. Unconventional and lively, an advocate of romantic literature, she created a modern international Paris salon from the 1830s onward, and in 1847 she married the German orientalist Julius Mohl (1800–1876).73 The history and the present of salons came together as Madame Mohl wrote a book about her friend Madame Récamier, to which she appended a history of salons, and among the regulars at her salon was the biographer of the salonnières of the grand siècle, Victor Cousin (1792–1867).74 Madame Mohl frequently acted as an intermediary between authors, translators and publishers to get the works of her friends disseminated internationally.75
The salon conviviality of the Second French Empire was scarcely adversely affected by the fact that most of the salons belonged to the Legitimist, Orléanist and Republican opposition. From the 1840s, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte (1820–1904) occupied a special position in salon culture. Her salon was a social focal point of the empire, while refusing to have any truck with current affairs. During the Third Republic, the princess cultivated a purely historical Bonapartism in her salon.76 The gatherings of Jeanne de Tourbey (1837–1908), whose real name was Marie-Anne Detouray, also continued for decades. They had developed out of the receptions of a lady of the half-world, and under the protection of leading literati they became a fully-fledged salon.77 After marrying the Count de Loynes (1872), Madame de Tourbey was even accepted in high society. She owed her success to her sense of style, her convival talents and her salon, which was open every day for decades.78 Towards the end of the century, the Dreyfus Affair caused a split in Paris salon society. Additionally, the boundaries between salons and bohemian society (which in contrast to classical salons rejected traditional values and manners) started to become blurred.79
In many salons, there was an attempt to confront crisis developments in society and conviviality through the medium of music. In this context, the salon of Geneviève Halévy-Bizet-Straus (1849–1926) was a particularly important salon in the Paris of the Third Republic. She was the widow of the composer Georges Bizet (1838–1875) and her son was a friend of the young Marcel Proust (1871–1922).80
Development and Connections in European Salon Culture in the 19th Century
Even after the cultural hegemony of France in Europe came to an end in 1815, French conviviality continued to be considered exemplary. From the perspective of the 19th century, the view that "convivality that is pure convivality, company that is pure company" "is only to be found in France", was justified, given the position of Paris as the cultural centre of Europe, and the specific convivial talents and activities of the French.81 Salons based on the French model but modified to local circumstances nonetheless emerged in many places, and were clearly distinct from other social gatherings. It is only possible to sketch a rough outline of the salon landscape with some characteristic features and examples that emerges from the research that has been done to date. New means of transportation such as steamships and railways made international contact between salons easier. Under certain conditions, salons as a style of conviviality could travel with their salonnières, establish connections with spa and rural conviviality, and be improvised at congresses and world's fairs.82
Rome and other cities in Italy
Prior to national unification in 1861–1870/1871, the Italian salons of the 19th century existed in a tension between traditional elements (Dante cult!) and the challenges of the political situation. They nevertheless retained their strong international dimension as the arcadia of travellers, scholars and artists.83 In Rome in the 1840s, the archaeologist Sibylle Mertens-Schaafhausen (1797–1857) particularly liked to frequent the salon of Maria Luisa Torlonia, Princess of Orsini (1804–1883).84
In the subsequent years, many Italian salonnières played a role in the run-up to national unification. In Clara Spinelli Maffei (1814–1886), in , and in it was Emilia Toscanelli Peruzzi (1826–1900), the wife of the statesman Ubaldino Peruzzi (1822–1891).85 Later, the "Sundays" with conversation and music organized by Laura Acton Minghetti (1829–1915), the wife of the statesman Marco Minghetti (1818–1886), in the Palazzo Mattei in Rome brought together politicians, aristocrats, artists, scholars and international guests. Through her daughter Maria Princess von Bülow (1848–1929), she maintained particularly close contact with salon circles in and Berlin.86 Among the prominent men of Roman salon society, the statesman, art connoisseur and Dante researcher Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta (1804–1882) deserves particular attention. The salon of his daughter Countess Ersilia Caetani Lovatelli (1840–1925), who was an archaeologist, was frequented by such luminaries as Ferdinand Gregorovius (1821–1891) and Theodor Mommsen (1817–1903).87, it was Countess
Berlin salon culture developed between 1780 and 1806. Personality culture and neohumanism were a modified version of the classical French educational ideals in the salons. Reform ideas emerged out of critiques of conviviality in the late-ancien régime, the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. During the periods of classicism and romanticism, the salons also promoted interest in literature and participated in the shaping of the German cultural nation. In the correct dosage, the two great opposing ideas of the 19th century, "Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat" (cosmopolitanism and the nation-state) (Friedrich Meinecke), could be very fruitful for salon culture. That Berlin became the capital of the German-speaking salons was thanks to young women with an interest in literature from the Jewish "Ersatzbourgeoisie" of Berlin connected with the Haskala.88 Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786)had called for social "Politur" (polishing) to be also an expression of "culture" and "enlightenment".89 At that time, different emancipation campaigns became interconnected. As outsiders of the estate-based society, Jewish women created a reformed salon conviviality. In these salons, which were open to Christian aristocrats and bourgeoisie as a separate sphere, there were varying mixtures of traditional and new (liberal) elements of salon culture. The first salon of this kind was founded by Henriette Herz (1764–1847)in the form of literary teas, which developed as an offshoot of the scholarly social gatherings of her husband and at which different social groups came into contact. The dinners and teas organized by Sara Levy (1761–1854), which were initially held in French, were more strongly influenced by French salon forms. A banker's wife and Bach expert, she had close links with music circles in Vienna.90 Through her independence of thought, Rahel Levin-Varnhagen (1771–1833)created her own kind of early-romantic salon conviviality. She combined the study of the human psyche, and of questions of truth and authenticity with the older salon tradition. She admired the ideal of the French femme de lettre, an ideal which was difficult to realise in Germany around 1800.91 Her attitude to French salon culture in toto was ambivalent, though she acknowledged that the French had a particularly advantageous "Geselligkeitstrieb" (drive to be sociable), which she believed was ultimately the "höchste Menschenaufgabe" (highest human duty).92
In patriotic salons in the period 1806–1814, national sentiment directed against Napoleonic oppression only rarely displaced the admiration for the French language and culture, even if there was an increasing enthusiasm for "das Altdeutsche" (ancient German language and culture).93 In 1814, Madame de Staël's critique of the stiffness that she perceived in German conviviality and conversation in the salons of Berlin was initially rejected by some, though it did provide an important impetus for improvements.94 The Berlin salons were influenced by the numerous conviviality theories of their time95 and, in spite of the many political and humanitarian difficulties of the period of Restoration and reaction (after 1815), they were characterized by an intensive literary and musical life. The Jewish, Christian, aristocratic and bourgeois salon circles of educated Berlin increasingly seeped into each other during the 19th century. The literary horizon expanded into a Europe-wide one. In Berlin salons, people increasingly shared Goethe's idea of a dawning epoch of "Weltliteratur" (world literature).96 In her salon, the poet, translator and former lady at court in Amalie von Helvig (1776–1831) cultivated contact with Scandinavia. Elise von Hohenhausen (1789–1857) translated and disseminated the English romantics. The memory of Rahel Varnhagen not only continued to influence salon circles in Berlin after her death, but spread far beyond Berlin. Through her letters, which were published under the title Rahel. Ein Buch des Andenkens für ihre Freunde (the first volume was already published in the year of her death 1833), Rahel Levin-Varnhagen remained a presence in educated circles. Her spirit also continued to have an influence in the Berlin salons of her friend Henriette Solmar (1794–1889) and her niece Ludmilla Assing (1821–1880).97
In the dense Berlin salon tradition, transfer processes at play in the salons were also reflected in the salonnière dynasties, which were symbols of tradition and change.98 For example, the salon of Elisabeth von Staegemann (1761–1835) survived through three generations, being continued by her daughter Hedwig von Olfers (1799–1891) and her granddaughter Marie von Olfers (1826–1924). During the reign of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia (1795–1861) in particular, the famous "Gelbe Saal" (yellow hall) of the Olfers on Museum Island was a literary and artistic focal point of Berlin.99 Though there were no political salons in the narrower sense in Berlin before the 1848 Revolution, political differences nonetheless came to the surface, which made interaction between salons with different political viewpoints difficult. In the 1850s, a number of significant literary and also liberal salons emerged, for example those of Fanny Lewald (1811–1889) and Lina Duncker (1825–1885). From the beginning of the Bismarck era and particular from German unification in 1871, permanent political salons appeared, for example those of Hildegard Baroness von Spitzemberg (1843–1914) and Marie Princess Radziwill (1840–1915).100 The salon of Marie Countess von Schleinitz (1842–1912), the wife of the Prussian minister of the royal household, not only provided a meeting place for liberal circles and opponents of Bismarck, but also for the art world and the Berlin Wagner community.101 The most prominent personage among the Berlin salonnières of her generation was Anna von Helmholtz (1834–1899). Her "Tuesdays" in Bismarck-era Berlin brought together a broad spectrum of guests from the worlds of academia, literature, music, the arts and politics.102 The National Liberal politician Ludwig Bamberger (1823–1899), who had lived in Paris for a long time, expressly placed the salon of Frau von Helmholtz on a par with the best salon conviviality of the French capital.103 The salon of Felicie Bernstein (1850–1908)was very international and characterized by very generous patronage. As early as 1880, it was possible to admire an excellent collection of impressionist paintings here, which the Bernstein family had acquired in Paris. Conversations in this salon subsequently provided the impetus for the foundation of the Berlin Secession.104
Vienna and Prague
In Vienna, the salons were always dominated by music. Even in specifically "literary" salons, music was enjoyed and cultivated intensively, for example at the salon of the writer Caroline Pichler (1769–1843).105 The most prominent of the Viennese salons, which combined music, literature, theatre and a social context, was that of Fanny Baroness von Arnstein (1758–1818), who was one of the founders of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien (Society of Friends of Music in Vienna), and that of her daughter Henriette von Pereira (1780–1859).106 Both salons were in close contact with Berlin salon circles and established the prominence of Jewish salonnières in Vienna too. During the socially turbulent months of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/1815, numerous temporary salons emerged in international diplomatic circles.
The small number of ladies among the Viennese court nobility who had literary interests had in many cases come from outside the capital, such as the Rosalie Rzewuska (1788–1865) and Marie Princess von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1837–1920), at whose salons the theatre world also came together from the 1860s onward.107 Ottilie von Goethe (1796–1872), who from the late-1830s lived much of the time in Vienna, represented a close link between Vienna and Weimar. The tradition of literary-musical salons was maintained over decades by the sisters Sophie Baroness von Todesco (1825–1895) and Josefine von Wertheimstein (1820–1894).108 Around 1900, an impressive late blossoming of Viennese salon culture occured in the context of the fin de siècle and Jugendstil art. The dominant figure of this was the writer and journalist Berta Zuckerkandl (1864–1945).109 Her salon remained in existence even after the First World War (up to 1938).Countess
In the multi-ethnic empire of the Habsburgs, the growing confidence of the nationalities became increasingly apparent from the mid-19th century onward. The upsurge in Honoráta Zapová (1825–1856), who wrote a book about women's education (1855), is considered the first literary salon in Prague. The salon of the writer Anna Lauermannová-Mikschová (1852–1932) was also a particularly prominent meeting point for literary circles from about 1880 until after the First World War.110literature and – closely connected with it – women's questions shaped the salons of this time. The salon of
Northwestern and northern Europe
While there is the impression that English family, social and club life did not allow a very concentrated salon culture to emerge, salon conviviality was more prevalent in London that is apparent at first glance. For example, the little "eight o'clock teas" of the writer and translator Elizabeth Benger (1775–1827), whose conversation Madame de Staël greatly valued, have been all but forgotten.111 Around 1800, the receptions of the politically influential and musically engaged Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806) were famous.112 However, it is primarily the political salon of Elizabeth Vassall Fox, Lady Holland (1770–1845) that has remained in the collective memory, as well as the glamorous salon of the writer Lady Marguerite Blessington (1789–1849).113 There were also hostesses who were socially active or engaged in literature who had a jour fixe, but who did not particularly identify with the salon tradition.114
Salons in Scandinavia witnessed a blossoming of intercultural conviviality during the romantic period in particular. In the Swedish city of Malla Silfverstolpe (1782–1861) had her "Fridays". On her travels in Germany in 1825, she visited Berlin, where she quickly made contact with Berlin salon circles through her friend Amalie von Helvig.115 In Copenhagen, the much-travelled writer Friederike Brun (1765–1835) – who had spent a few years in Rome – held a salon from 1810 onwards, which was even frequented by the Danish crown prince.116 The poet Kamma Rahbek (1775–1829) hosted the writers of Danish romanticism in the old Bakkehuset (in Frederiksberg in Copenhagen).117 Subsequently, the salon of the poet Thomasine Baroness Gyllembourg-Ehrensvärd (1773–1856), the mother of the poet and philosopher Johann Ludwig Heiberg (1791–1860), and the salon of her daughter-in-law, the actress Johanne Louise Heiberg (1812–1890), were an important cultural focal point of Copenhagen.118, the writer
The high aristocracy of Stanislaus August II (1732–1798) and Madame Geoffrin appear to have inspired his own famous conviviality in Warsaw (and subsequently in ).119 The Warsaw salon culture of the romantic period was particularly fertile. Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849), who also had connections with France – not least with George Sand (1804–1876) – frequented the salons of the widow Countess Aleksandra Potocka (1760–1831) and of the patron and art collector Princess Izabela Czartoryska (1746–1835). There was also a whole series of significant musical salons, some held by bourgeois women.120 The national tragedy of the partitions of Polandadversely affected salon culture, but it also gave rise to many cross-border connections and to Polish aristocrats becoming prominent figures outside Poland, e.g. in Vienna and Berlin.developed a keen interest in salon culture at an early point. Dynastic connections promoted French influence in , and the links between the Polish King
In Catharine the Great (1729–1796)and her connections with the western European Enlightenment.121 The French colony in St. Petersburg, which grew with the arrival of refugees from the Revolution, also promoted French tastes and lifestyle there.122 Grand Princess Helena Pavlovna (1807–1873), who had been brought up in Paris, held a salon in St. Petersburg from around 1824 in the form of her "Thursday soirées".123 However, the salon of Ekaterina Karamzina (1780–1851), the widow of Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin (1766–1826), was the most prominent one, even if its actual focal point was her stepdaughter Sophia Karamzina (1802–1856).124 There were also bourgeois salons, such as that of the writer Eugenia Maikova (1803–1880). For , the salons of Zinaida Volkonskaia (1789–1862),125 Avdotia Glinka (1795–1863) and, in particular, the poet and translator Karolina Jaenisch-Pavlova (1807–1893) deserve mention.126 Towards the end of the salon era, salons of Symbolism emerged in St. Petersburg, though they were scarcely distinguishable from bohemian subcultures.127, salon culture had its roots in the cultural engagement of
The End of Salon Culture as an Era (1914/1918)
In some cities, there was a late blossoming of the salons before the First World War. It is instructive that Jugendstil artists were supported by some salons128. Here, the old conviviality style of the "salon" was able to combine one last time with a European artistic style that encompassed all areas of life. That the salons nevertheless proceeded to fade away was due in no small part to the fact that many educated women had found fields of activity outside of the salon.129 The 20th century witnessed a break with traditional values and structures in many regards. The humanist educational ideals, the fundamentals of which (with their moral, aesthetic, social and convivial aspects) had remained the same since the Renaissance, were called into question by modernity. The emancipation of women, social restructuring, modern mass societies and the mass media made the salons, or at least their secondary social and communicative functions, dispensable. The end of the monarchies also played a role. Already in France during the Third Republic, a connection was often drawn between the passing of the last ladies from the imperial period and the demise of the salons.130 Multi-layered relationships of attraction and differentiation bound the salon circles to parts of the courtly world. The old individualism and personalism, personality culture (with all its intellectual, psychological, religious, moral, familial, societal and political subdivisions), which also included the hereditary monarchies with their structures, no longer had any real chance as a culture-carrying and state-carrying factor in modern mass society with its systems of rules.131 The end of the monarchical era (1918) brought a definitive end to "old Europe".132 While there continued to be brilliant women after the First World War who continued to cultivate or resuscitated the tradition, war and revolutions (1914/1918) with their far-reaching consequences for the whole of Europe brought a definitive end to the Europe-wide salon culture.
Concluding Remarks: Salon Culture and Salonnières
Salon culture as a whole was more significant than the individual salons. However, the idea of a homogenous salon culture would be misleading. Salon culture must always be interpreted as a complex construct of ideals and traditions, individual biographies and variable concepts, nuances of meanings and structures within the respective broader context. Paris salons differed from salons in the French countryside. Notwithstanding the many direct borrowings and similarities, outside France the picture was in some cases a very heterogeneous one with different local flavours. The greatest similarities – independent of location – were between prominent salons whose hostesses had thought intensively about the tradition of salon conviviality. In France, the salons were largely defined by the form of brilliant conversation, though Madame de Staël saw this as being realized only in a small few circles even in Paris. Where the desire for general conversational conviviality was less pronounced, thematic aspects, such as literature and music, came to the fore. Changes in the general perception of women and in the self-image of salonnières also constantly affected the practice of salon culture and its functions.133
The convivial endeavours and in particular the personality of the salonnière were constitutive for the salon. It was she, whom one wished to meet and talk to, who was in demand in her various roles (which she had to play and, where necessary, to improvise), and who was also responsible for the tone and the spirit of the salon. The true salonnière saw "only the person and never the rank" – this was the actual source of the aspects of freedom and equality in the salons.134 Whether a hostess succeeded in realizing the very demanding and half utopian conviviality style of the "salon" depended on an inconspicuous didactic skill, which the best salonnière personages had along with their education and their charm.135 What was central to the practical success of salon conviviality in all its historical, social and cultural forms was the basic combination: "menschliche Menschen, treue Freunde ... und bewegliche Geister und Gemüter."136