Up All Night in the 1700s

The “Century of Lights,” as the French called it, was an illuminating era of intellectual and technological advancement. But the 1700s was also literally a century of candlelight. In the glow of glittering chandeliers, Europeans stayed up later and later, pushing aside the veil of darkness to preen and play.

Fashionable parties centered on card playing. The rules of the game—and the etiquette—were unforgiving. But the flickering light, the gilded rooms, and the bejeweled dress softened the strictness. You can experience this enchantment here in Mia’s Grand Salon, as the light and sound shifts from day to night, mundane to magical.

Jean Gaillard de La Bouëxière, a royal tax collector under France’s King Louis XV, originated the paneled interior of this room in 1735, when he renovated a house for himself near the Place Vendôme, in Paris. The increasingly powerful royal government fueled his extravagant lifestyle and that of his peers, spreading public street lighting and easing access to imported stimulants like coffee, tea, and chocolate through expanded global trade—essential ingredients for late-night socializing.

This project is part of Living Rooms, an initiative to present Mia’s historic interiors and decorative arts collections in new ways.

Generous support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and donors at the 2014 Mia Gala.

Additional support provided by The Chipstone Foundation.

A Room Transformed

To convey the effects that different light types and sources have on the Grand Salon, Mia designed and installed a programmable lighting system to present a condensed 24-hour light cycle.  LED light bars behind the walls bounce light through the glass windows and doors, while new bulbs in the Grand Salon’s chandelier and sconces simulate the effect of candlelight. Small spotlights in the reproduction chandelier and burning embers in the fireplace illuminate the mantle, fire box, and gilt seahorse chenets.

Read the ArtStory on the Grand Salon from the Hôtel de la Bouëxière. Zoom in. Dive deep.