Conversation Starters

Paris, Palais Royale, Marais 1600s

Bonjour mes amis, ca va?

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve typed those simple little words, close to a year by the looks of it. I miss those carefree days of checking in, coming here just to rendezvous together for a bit with you. But life sped ahead, and somehow the blog got pushed to the bottom of the list, patiently waiting for the day a keystroke would bring it back to the forefront, remaining still as each day passed. And of course so much has happened with all of us, it’s hard to recap. So we won’t, let’s just take it from here.

So what’s going on? Well, I’m back to the blog and biz and thought it might be fun to tell you about a project that’s been brewing for years and is finally underway. Not to give too much of a spoiler but of course it’s Paris related (an obsession of infinite inspiration), but it starts an entire century before the Versailles era we’ve come to equate with the old Paris we’re so familiar with. That glorious time had a predecessor, and it was filled with the darkest of the dark and brightest of the bright in terms of everything from society to science.

The project is a book series on the Salon Hostesses of Paris; the women who, starting with Madame Rambouillet in the 1600s, used their homes for intimate gatherings with locals of all status from the famous to the infamous, to discuss how they would change a decadent, debaucherous and dangerous city into one that celebrated gallantry, manners, preservation of the language, art, litterature, dance, theater and philosophy. And change it they did. Madame Rambouillet was the first salon hostess, an innocently self-created position brought on by her revulsion to the happenings at the Louvre which included immoralilty, backstabbing and general chaos by which she was disgusted and retreated completely into her own world and was determined to have, do and be something different, something beautiful and civilized and precious. She decided to renovate a house close to the palace and named it Hôtel de Rambouillet. She designed it to be grand and open so the light would pour in and her guests could circulate. She used the doors and windows to merge indoor and outdoor living, and created what was to become a place of legend, the Chambre Bleu, where she hosted many evenings from her alcove bed. Through her gracious spirit and ability to inspire, she was a muse and encouraged and extruded conversation from her brilliant writers and thinking guests and who ushered in the Age of Reason and Age of Enlightenment. Conversations were key; they were the foundation of the salon. Discussion, wit, observation, encouragement, appreciation, speculation were all the rage and were often recorded by the guests once they got home.

Of course the story of her life and those surrounding her was outrageously monumental and her legacy is staggering but we’ll leave that to the book! What’s fascinating is how much there is to discover, the records that were kept, the private notes of the guests. Even more remarkable is how one woman was able to influence an entire culture so many centuries ago by simply facilitating conversation and celebrating it as an art.

Engraving of the Grounds, Hotel de Rambouillet: Perspective view of Paris in 1607 from a copperplate by Leonard Gaultier. The Hôtel de Rambouillet is a Parisian hotel known for the literary salon of Catherine de Vivonne (Madame de Rambouillet) held from 1608 until her death in 1665. It was located on rue St-Thomas du Louvre (street perpendicular to rue St-Honoré, approximately on the site of the current Turgot pavilion of the Louvre).

I love digging up old images and records of the property as it was developing. It’s absolutely fascinating that someone would make an engraving like this one above to commemorate the venue.

Blueprints for L’Hotel de Rambouillet

Or this drawing of the beginning ideas for the Hotel de Rambouillet – By today’s terms, a model sketch or blueprints, even graph paper!

Rendering, Hotel de Rambouillet, Paris

This little drawing of the plot may be my favorite and I’d love to find the entire map. The record keeping and documents are just incredible. This was at a time that Paris was exploding. In 1600, Paris was the largest city in europe and growing by the day. We rarely think of those whose hands built the city brick by brick, they’re long forgotten. But they do live on in so many ways, don’t they? The 1600s on one hand was a modern era with many minds being open to building techniques, style nature, mathematics, astronomy and countless inventions including the microscope, the telescope and thermometer. Just to put things into perspective though, Notre Dame was started in the 1100s! C’est fou, non?

But that’s another story.

Anyway I better get back to work but am glad to reconnect. If you’re interested in learing more or want to get on the list for pre-order, let me know. Till then, have a wonderful weekend, hopefully filled with meaningful convos!

August 12, 2022. Tags: , , , . RAMBOUILLET. 6 comments.