Thursday, December 18, 2008

Food Related Painting of the Week

Supper at Emmaus
Marco Marziale, 1506

Supper at Emmaus
(from the Web Gallery of Art)

This painting illustrates one of the problems I have to face: early medieval artwork was usually much more concerned with religion than it was with food. I can find heaps of paintings and illuminations depicting religious figures, but very few that have any kind of accurate depiction of medieval food (I almost chose a painting of Herod's banquet where John the Baptists' head was being served on a platter, but it just wasn't food-related enough).

At any rate, there actually is a bit of interesting food-related stuff going on in this picture. Most prominent of course are the oddly shaped loaves of bread. I haven't seen kidney-shaped loaves before. Each loaf has a strange little dimple on the side as well - perhaps it's a baker's mark.

In front of each diner is a rectangular trencher, apparently made of metal. Bread trenchers were increasingly popular for feasts in the later 14th and early 15th centuries, but may have fallen out of fashion by the time this was painted. I'm not sure exactly what;s on these trenchers. It looks kind of like the calamari I get at the local sushi place, but I kind of doubt that. The ones on Jesus' trencher look like uniform slices of something. Meat? Sippets?

Aside from the trencher and a spiffy knife for each diner, the remaining items on the table are all rather plain. Jesus's bowl, the pitcher, and the glasses are certainly of nice quality (metal and glass), but are not ornate. The glasses don't even have the stereotypical prunts (bumps added to the outside to make the glass less slippery). The possible exception is the salt cellar in front of Jesus, which looks like it's made of gold or brass and appears to have some decoration around the side.

That's it for the food though - just bread, wine, and some mysterious things on trenchers.

The sawhorse table is rather interesting of course, as are the stools at either end. I still need to get around to making a couple of tables like this, and maybe stools too. Others may be fascinated by the clothes, hats, rosaries, belt pouches, napkins, boot closures, and the fact that the fold lines are so visible on the table cloth, but not me. I didn't notice those things at all.

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