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Reviewed by:
  • Salons
  • Kate E. Tunstall
Denis Diderot: Salons. Edited by Michel Delon. (Collection Folio Classique). Paris: Gallimard, 2008. 608 pp. Pb €8.70.

This is what all readers of Diderot and aesthetics, and indeed of criticism in general, have been waiting for: an affordable, single-volume paperback of the Salons. Delon has abridged the texts, but his choices are excellent, and he has included in full the Essais sur la peinture, Satire sur le luxe, Regrets sur ma vieille robe de chambre, and Pensées détachées sur la peinture. Because this is a selection, albeit a very ample one, the Hermann edition (also available in paperback, in four volumes) will remain the scholarly reference; but Delon has done a great service to Diderot’s Salons in making them ‘portatifs’ (to use a word Voltaire was fond of). We can now not only read Diderot’s Salons in the way we would his novels — on the bus or the beach, for example — and the Salons are as full of comic narratives as the author’s Jacques le fataliste, but perhaps better still, we can [End Page 350] walk around the Louvre or the Met or the Hunterian with a copy to hand. Delon’s Salons contains no reproductions, apart from the detail of Zoffany’s Charles Townley and his Friends at the Townley Gallery on the front cover, an absence that may have been dictated by cost. However, the fact that the Zoffany is not a painting to which Diderot refers may suggest a positive decision on Delon’s part. If so, it represents another service Delon has done for the texts: by not including any of the images Diderot referred to, Delon avoids any implication that the texts relate to the paintings as copies do to originals, and he thereby puts modern readers in a position similar to that of the readers of the Correspondance littéraire (in which the Salons first appeared), who were unlikely to have seen the paintings. In so doing, Delon ensures that all our attention is focused on Diderot’s words, the images they produce, the stories they tell, and on the exuberant entertainment they offer.

Kate E. Tunstall
Worcester College, Oxford


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pp. 350-351
Launched on MUSE
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