Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Food Related Painting of the Week

The Egg Dance
Pieter Aertsen, 1552

The Egg Dance
(from the Web Gallery of Art)

I briefly talked about this painting in my post about medieval eggs, but there's a lot more here worth perusing.

One of the more obvious things is all the leeks and mussel shells scattered over the floor. I read somewhere (and can no longer find the source) that these - along with the leeks in the vase on the wall in the background - indicate that the place depicted in the painting is a house of ill repute. I don't know enough about that aspect of medieval history to be sure, but that sounds reasonable to me. Aside from the mess on the floor there are a couple of interesting kettles hanging over the fire and, at the very top of the painting near the center, some odd things which I think are sausages.

The really big draw though (for me at least) is the stuff on the table. The small loaves of bread are easy to figure out, and the little metal thing is probably a salt cellar, but what are those flat, diamond-shaped things? Waffles? They don't quite look like the waffles in other paintings. They're too thick to be playing cards. Trenchers maybe? The one to the left is curving up slightly at the edges in the same way the trenchers I made did after they started to dry out a bit.

And what in blazes are those things in the center of the table? I've seen these things before (in Aertsen's painting Butcher's Stall) and I couldn't figure then out there either (though in that painting they were accompanied by two similar things with a disturbingly red-brown colored filling). Schmaltz tarts? Marrow? Soft cheese with a rind? If so, the "rind" looks kind of wrong. Whatever they are, they come from the butcher ready-to-eat. I'm stumped on this one.

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