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Tea and Talk

Rahel Varnhagen

Rahel Varnhagen, drawing by Wilhelm Hensel, 1822
© Picture Archive of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin

People of different backgrounds met to converse at the numerous salons founded in Berlin at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. The hostesses were often smart, well-read Jewish women such as Henriette Herz (1764–1847) and Rahel Varnhagen (1771–1833).
“At our salon there is no parade of celebrities. People of various professions, generations and classes simply assemble here. They are people who participate in intellectual, in literary life or who wish to do so. Art lovers.”

Portrait of Henriette Herz

"Henriette Herz as Hebe [the Greek goddess of Youth]," painting by Anna D. Therbusch, 1778
© Picture Archive of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin

With these words Rahel Varnhagen described the guests who gathered regularly in her salon on Mauerstraße in Berlin between 1820 and 1833.

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The philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher about the literary salons in Berlin

The story paints a vibrant picture of the salon culture sustained by Jewish women and offers a wealth of source material by and about Henriette Herz and Rahel Varnhagen.

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