Art at the table
Sweetmeats at the Court
Wafers and sorbets, doughnuts and pancakes, candied fruit and biscuits. Delicious perfumes of exquisite dainties straight from the oven, so that it is almost as if we could smell the perfume. A feast for the eyes and the palate. Here we’re talking about sweetmeats, luxurious delights of the table, redolent of parties in the villa and special banquets, but also evoking everyday pleasures, baked with care by the cooks in service at the time at the Court of the Ancien Régime.
Symbols and rituals in which all behaviour is sublimated which, stylised, becomes meaning.
The sweetmeat is bound by the rigid dictates of the fashion and the social pecking-order of the time. And so we can speak of Florentine life, of the structures of the Medici court and of popular customs. Cooking, the rituals of the table and the relationship with food become, as Lévi Strauss said in The Origin of Table Manners “a language through which that society unconsciously reveals its structure, unless – just as unconsciously – it resigns itself to using the medium to express its contradictions.”
And so this offers a cue for proposing artistic titbits, in which the ingredients are the images, an itinerary in which we move from iconographic appetite to the delights –albeit virtual – of the palate, where the sense of beauty and that of taste open up both aesthetic enjoyment and spiritual enhancement.
Illustrated in the paintings are seasonal delicacies and the culinary novelties of the time, which with the power of visual language become rooted in the mind and the desires of the observer. So, let’s take a look...