The salons of 18th-century houses were rooms for conversation, entertainment and relaxation. They were also among the places where the ideas of the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment were debated.
Enlightenment thinkers challenged ideas supported only by tradition, including those of the Catholic Church. Instead, they championed analysis and clarity. Through reason and scientific observation, they sought to reform society and change the way people think.
The Salon display is supported by DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.
A key Enlightenment publication was the influential and controversial Encyclopédie. Edited by the philosopher Denis Diderot, the Encyclopédie intended to encompass all human knowledge.
At the centre of this room is a specially commissioned artwork, The Globe. This installation by the Cuban art collective Los Carpinteros (The Carpenters) is a response to the theme of the Enlightenment.
The structure refers to several images from the Age of Reason. It can be viewed variously as a hemispherical map of the world, a bookcase, an interior from a great library classifying all human knowledge, a symbol of the universe, or an architectural model. It can equally be interpreted as a cage – an important reference for Los Carpinteros being the late 18th-century ‘panopticon’, a circular jail in which a single guard located at the centre could keep watch over hundreds of prisoners.
Like the salons of the 18th-century, where the ideas of the Enlightenment were debated and where music was performed, The Globe provides a space for conversation and special events.