Sexy Salons


Lecture de Molière by
Jean-François de Troy (1679-1752),

“We need a salon” said a friend and reader.

“Pardonez-moi” I responded, in keeping with the moment. “We need a Friday evening salon to discuss the contents of your blog. “Woa, I thought, cool! People actually care”. Sorry, no salon – it sounds like way too much work – but it did pique my curiosity.

woolf.jpgOf course I was familiar with the famous Bloomsbury group, a London based group of Cambridge intellectuals who greatly influenced the social, cultural and sexual mores of the first half of the 20th century. The group revolved around Virginia Woolf and her husband and included painters, economists and political and literary commentators. They had a “salon” and would assemble regularly for drinks and serious conversation not to mention serious fun, mainly in the form of dalliances, often with other members of the group and not necessarily a member of the opposite sex. They were trend setters and taste shapers in the realms of contemporary art, literature and fashion and revolutionized attitudes towards feminism, pacifism and of course sex. WooHoo!

Looking back, salons have been a dynamic social force since they began in 17th century France. The name derives from the French word for drawing room where the salon was hosted, usually by a socially prominent women, who, denied access to politics and formal education found the salon a powerful way to educated themselves as well as exercise influence behind-the-scenes. The woman, known as the Salonnière, decided who was invited as well as the matter to be discussed choosing topics from the realms of politics, philosophy, literature, art, fashion or business. All of a sudden I LOVE the concept – a doyenne of society, otherwise denied access to “weighty matters” created her own court with herself as the Empress!

wsrca9y1smtca29f7a6calygjg6ca4rx2xecahl8tc9cayny7z5cayhu3ybcaas98umca4n238wca2dq5c9ca7mb4wjcacoifducaovyknjcan1nx0mcanbmogqca67731ecau6q0mkca9sd2fzcaoia58n.jpgSome feel that the first salon-like circle formed around a woman, famous for her intellect and wit, by the name of Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles in ancient Greece. The Italian Renaissance also saw a flowering of salon-like activity around two erudite and cultivated women, the Duchess of Urbino and her feisty friend Emilia Pia.

article011.jpgThe first true “salon” however was the creation of the Marquise de Rambouillet. In an attempt to escape the masculine dominated vulgarities of the court of Louis XIII in the early 1600′s, she held her own “court” in the salons of her mansion near the Louvre and thus began two centuries of female-dominated, enlightened discourse that determined European style and codes of civilized behavior. In fact the French Salon is said to have “changed the course of intellectual history” and raised “conversation” to the level of an art form. O.K. I’m beginning to see the appeal.The salons broke down the barriers of social hierarchies so that nobles could rub shoulders with the bourgeois, the bohemia and even riffraff if they wanted to. The attraction was a new form of social and intellectual freedom. In fact the Marquise’ salon was so successful she spawned all sorts of imitators, in particular the one led by her arch rival the Mlle. de Scudery and later the daringly sensual Ninon de Lenclos, so that by the mid 1700′s the salon had become an institution in French society and was the principal form of communication among intellectuals.

It all sounds very lofty and grand but like all human interactions the salons were laced with their share of competition and romantic intrigue. Hostesses were soon vying with each other to see who they could attract to their salon and many were there to see who they could attract to their bedrooms. Lots of Hanky Panky apparently.

Well, of course it wasn’t long before the whole thing degenerated. The French playwright Moliere famously ridiculed the pomposity and pretentiousness of the Salonnières in his satire “Les Précieuses Ridicules” The Ridiculous Young Ladies and salons were soon to be described as “mad carnivals of vice and frivolity,” Sounds good to me!  It wasn’t enough to stop the onslaught however and “salons” soon spread throughout Europe. Hmmm! I wonder why?

The more things change the more they stay the same. By the 19th century Bohemian Salon’s were the order of the day; characterized by long haired, anti-materialistic, anti-establishment, mad poets railing against the bourgeoisie aided by copious consumption of wine and other mind-altering substances, the common denominator seems to be more uninhibited sexual behavior.

O.K. O.K. I WANT A SALON!  How do I get one? Where do I sign up?

The closest thing I have to a SALON is the comment box – Salonniere says ‘LEAVE ONE!’ Then check “comments” on site to see what readers are saying..

2 Responses

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Sounds so much like your cup of tea, Peg.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, to long for decent conversation instead of the price of local versus imported cauliflower – we can naught but hope!

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