(b. 1674, Paris, d. 1749, Paris)
Watteau and his Friend Monsieur de Jullienne1731
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
The salons, places of conversations in sophisticated social circles in Paris and the provinces, played an important role in 18th-century cultural life. Artistic undertakings, problems of decoration, and literary endeavours all became topics in the salons. It is interesting to note that the term designating social gatherings was also applied to the dominant mode of artistic exhibition, the famous Salons of painting.
In that age of intense social life, Parisian cafés played a role almost as remarkable as that of the glittering literary salons hosted on fixed days of the week by women such as Madame du Deffand and Madame Geoffrin, which characterized the Enlightenment. Toward the end of Louis XIV's reign, the somewhat rebellious, somewhat libertine cliques, such as the one around the duchess of Maine, attracted strong-minded artists. Aristocratic circles took the lead from the court, and a reputation could be made at salons in town - Watteau at Jean de Jullienne's salon, Chardin at that of Madame Geoffrin.