Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Food Related Painting of the Week

Still-life with Parrot
Georg Flegel, ca. 1600

Still-life with Parrot
(from the Web Gallery of Art)

This week I've chosen a German painting full of sweets and such.

Like most still-life paintings, there's a bunch of interesting things scattered about. At the front and just to the right is a round wooden box that is filled with what's probably quince paste (cotignac or membrillo - like marmalade but much more firm, if you haven't tried this stuff then look at the local gourmet grocery, they usually have it near the imported cheeses like manchego - with which it goes exceptionally well!).

I'd be tempted to call the flat things in the lower right trenchers, but by the 1600s the use of trenchers had pretty much fallen out of fashion. They look more like biscotti (zweibaken? my German is not that good). Those things on top are either small pears or (more likely, I think) fresh figs.

The tall silver dish in the center is filled with sugar-covered things. I imagine the stick-shaped ones are strips of orange peel or maybe even horseradish root. I have no idea what the other things are, though the smaller, oval things might be almonds. Notice how nice and white the sugar coating is? I've ranted about the color of medieval sugar before. On a side note, the bumpiness of the sugared items is caused by having the sugar syrup too hot during the coating process. Around the dish of sweets is a plate of dried figs (maybe with some dates as well), a pomegranate, and a small (about 1/4 pound) loaf of bread.

On the left, near the spoons, is a beautiful prunted beaker - I have a set that look almost exactly like it. Behind and under the stack of plates is what looks like a wheel of cheese. I really hope the color of the paint has changed over the centuries, because that's not the color I like my cheese to have.

It wouldn't be that hard to re-create this setup, though I'd cover the table with a nice cloth. I'd also leave out the parrot - I'm sure it's a health code violation.


Stephanie said...

What do you think the plate in the upper right hand corner has on it? The one next to the melon? It looks like slices of something....

Doc said...

The first thing that came to my mind (obviously wrong) was "French Vanilla Ice Cream".

It does look a bit like slices of something, doesn't it? It could be a stack of some kind of wafer (like these) ... or maybe cheese? Or maybe scoops of something like the melon next to it or even Mon Amy (which is close to cheesecake in texture).

I think the resolution of the photo (and maybe the painting) is just too low to know for sure. I'll keep an eye out for similar dishes in other paintings though.