Who came before us
brief history of literary and music salons
Fraternity . . . and Billiards!
From the Italian Renaissance on, salons
spread across Europe and to England, and
with them, a code of behavior. Egalitarianism,
politeness and honor were its three pillars.
Some historians debate, as you may well
have guessed, whether these ideals were
always followed and to what extent. What
is not in doubt is that salons focused on
ideas, as well as the arts and literature.
And if billiards were your thing and you
lived in Paris in the 1770s, you may have
aspired to an invitation from the Remy family
who hosted a salon which combined this popular
game with music and, for good measure, supper.
Also not in doubt is that these cultural
salons brought together an unlikely mix
of participants who would debate ideas and
our salon there is no parade of celebrities.
People of various professions,
generations and classes simply assemble
here. They are people who participate in
intellectual and in literary life or who
wish to do so. Art lovers.
Rahel Varnhagen, German intellectual and
Berlin Salonniere, 1820 through 1833
the European salon was a 16th century Italian
invention and did spread throughout most
European nations, it was only in France
where they flourished uninterrupted for
nearly two centuries. It was in France where
a clear tradition of salon gatherings was