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Food in Art!
12 August 2012
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Food in Art!

Jan Davidsz de HEEM, A Table of Desserts, 1640, at the Louvre,
Jan Davidsz de HEEM, A Table of Desserts, 1640, at the Louvre, taken from Wikimedia Commons

A TABLE OF DESSERTS

Jan Davidsz de HEEM (Utrecht 1606 – Antwerp 1684)

17th Century, Flemish

JD de Heem was one of the rare Dutch Vanitas masters to capture some of the exuberance of the Flemish baroque. No surprise, as he spent his life ping-ponging between Protestant Utrecht and Catholic Antwerp throughout the ravages of the 30 Years War. The vanitas genre lectured a moral message, for instance some of the fruit here evokes Christian symbolism: Cherries are a fruit of paradise, peaches and apples embody the forbidden fruit, grapes represent redemption, and bread and wine are of course a clear reference to the Eucharist, the bod and blood of Christ. The lute and recorder recall the pleasure of the senses and the globe at top right corner recall the universe.

Louis XIV, whose army ravaged the Netherlands in 1672 (again causing de Heem to head back to Holland), bought this painting for Versailles. Much later Matisse copied it twice – nearly replicating it in an unremarkable art-school copy in 1893, and then nearly 20 years later in 1915 when Matisse was painting during another World War.

Foodies in France, this is just one piece which is a fine candidate for a Food + Wine THATLou. It can be tricky to find (in room 26!) since the 2nd floor Richelieu is interrupted between the Netherlands and Flemish sections via a lovely set of double-barreled stairs (called “Lefuel”), where there are some impish Snyders monkeys stealing fruit). The above de Heem text is taken directly from the hunt, but with one thing missing — something obvious from the below article will be an embedded bonus question… But what? Better read carefully, because as you know there’s no internet during the treasure hunt!

There’s so much to touch on with this one painting alone, throw Matisse in there and it doubles the anti! The 30 Years War (1618 – 1648) and the Peace of Westphalia, Louis XIV and his army, Versailles and the Sun King’s art patronage, de Heem and the vanitas genre… Where to start, what to look at? We can’t do it all, let’s take the most recent – as we rarely have an excuse to discuss modern painters (the Louvre’s collection ends where the Musée d’Orsay – why not toddle across the Seine for a THATd’Or ? – picks up after the mid 19th C.)

Matisse’s 1893 version “Dessert after de Heem”
Matisse’s 1893 version “Dessert after de Heem”, from moodbook

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) did his art-student copy of de Heem’s Table of Desserts at the age of 24 in 1893. That version is really just a replica that any art student could have made with a dim attempt for precise mimicry and little talent to show for it. However, it was important enough to catch his eye later. According to the curators of the MoMA in New York, at the start of the Great War in 1914 the French military requisitioned Matisse’s house in the Paris suburbs of Issy-les-Moulineaux. The following year when Matisse was allowed back in his home he happened across this school version of de Heem’s sumptuous still life and decided to make another copy.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Art Institute of Chicago co-curated a Matisse exhibition in 2010 called “Radical Invention 1913 – 1917” which covered a period in the artist’s life when Matisse didn’t seem to follow any one style, instead jumping from one technique to another, one model to another, one house to another. This, I suppose makes sense, as there was a World War going on after all.

Variation on a Still Life by de Heem, 1915 by Matisse, at the MoMA
Variation on a Still Life by de Heem, 1915 by Matisse, at the MoMA, from www.moma.org

That said Matisse’s own style(s) had come through by 1915 and in his Variation on a Still Life by de Heem (as he called this second version) he pulls from a cubist base and makes de Heem’s Table of Desserts his own. He called what he was doing the “Methods of Modern Construction” looking at old masters and constructing them in his modern context, peeing on the painting so to elegantly speak with vibrant colours and various techniques, yet retaining the composition so to still pay tribute to its provenance.

In a short podcast concerning Matisse’s inspiration, Stephanie d’Alessandro, a co-curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, described Matisse’s approach in his Variation on a Still Life by de Heem a “buffet of techniques”. Apt, for a period of so many (destructive) distractions.

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MoMA co-curator John Elderfield and Michael Duffy also speak of the various Table of Desserts. Matisse’s art-school version is in the Musée Matisse‘s collection in Nice Cimiez’s Villa Arènes. Finding an image of this 1893 version was no easy feat – yet another reference to its obscurity.
Jan Davidsz de HEEM, A Table of Desserts, 1640, at the Louvre, taken from Wikimedia Commons A TABLE OF DESSERTS Jan Davidsz de HEEM (Utrecht 1606 – Antwerp 1684) 17th Century, Flemish JD de Heem was one of the rare Dutch Vanitas masters to capture some of the exuberance of the Flemish baroque. No surprise, as he spent his life ping-ponging between Protestant Utrecht and Catholic Antwerp throughout the ravages of the 30 Years War. The vanitas genre lectured a moral message, for instance some of the fruit here evokes Christian symbolism: Cherries are a fruit of paradise, peaches and apples embody the forbidden fruit, grapes represent redemption, and bread and wine are of course a clear reference to the Eucharist, the bod and blood of Christ. The lute and recorder recall the pleasure of the senses and the globe at top right corner recall the universe. Louis XIV, whose army ravaged the Netherlands in 1672 (again causing de Heem to head back to Holland), bought this painting for Versailles. Much later Matisse copied it twice – nearly replicating it in an unremarkable art-school copy in 1893, and then nearly 20 years later in 1915 when Matisse was painting during another World War. Foodies in France, this is just one piece which is a fine candidate for a Thanksgiving Food + Wine THATLou. It can be tricky to find (in room 26!) since the 2nd floor Richelieu is interrupted between the Netherlands and Flemish sections via a lovely set of double-barreled stairs (called “Lefuel”), where there are some impish Snyders monkeys stealing fruit). The above de Heem text is taken directly from the hunt, but with one thing missing — something obvious from the below article will be an embedded bonus question… But what? Better read carefully, because as you know there’s no internet during the treasure hunt! There’s so much to touch on with this one painting alone, throw Matisse in there and it doubles the anti! The 30 Years War (1618 – 1648) and the Peace of Westphalia, Louis XIV and his army, Versailles and the Sun King’s art patronage, de Heem and the vanitas genre… Where to start, what to look at? We can’t do it all, let’s take the most recent – as we rarely have an excuse to discuss modern painters (the Louvre’s collection ends where the Musée d’Orsay – why not toddle across the Seine for a THATd’Or ? – picks up after the mid 19th C.) Matisse's 1893 version "Dessert after de Heem", taken from www.moodbook.com Matisse’s 1893 version “Dessert after de Heem”, from moodbook Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) did his art-student copy of de Heem’s Table of Desserts at the age of 24 in 1893. That version is really just a replica that any art student could have made with a dim attempt for precise mimicry and little talent to show for it. However, it was important enough to catch his eye later. According to the curators of the MoMA in New York, at the start of the Great War in 1914 the French military requisitioned Matisse’s house in the Paris suburbs of Issy-les-Moulineaux. The following year when Matisse was allowed back in his home he happened across this school version of de Heem’s sumptuous still life and decided to make another copy. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Art Institute of Chicago co-curated a Matisse exhibition in 2010 called “Radical Invention 1913 – 1917” which covered a period in the artist’s life when Matisse didn’t seem to follow any one style, instead jumping from one technique to another, one model to another, one house to another. This, I suppose makes sense, as there was a World War going on after all. Variation on a Still Life by de Heem, 1915 by Matisse, at the MoMA, from www.moma.org Variation on a Still Life by de Heem, 1915 by Matisse, at the MoMA, from www.moma.org That said Matisse’s own style(s) had come through by 1915 and in his Variation on a Still Life by de Heem (as he called this second version) he pulls from a cubist base and makes de Heem’s Table of Desserts his own. He called what he was doing the “Methods of Modern Construction” looking at old masters and constructing them in his modern context, peeing on the painting so to elegantly speak with vibrant colours and various techniques, yet retaining the composition so to still pay tribute to its provenance. In a short podcast concerning Matisse’s inspiration, Stephanie d’Alessandro, a co-curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, described Matisse’s approach in his Variation on a Still Life by de Heem a “buffet of techniques”. Apt, for a period of so many (destructive) distractions. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ MoMA co-curator John Elderfield and Michael Duffy also speak of the various Table of Desserts. Matisse’s art-school version is in the Musée Matisse‘s collection in Nice Cimiez’s Villa Arènes. Finding an image of this 1893 version was no easy feat – yet another reference to its obscurity.
Gourmanding Giants
06 August 2012
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Gourmanding Giants

Susan Feess, Wan Yan + Tara Byrne posing as 17th Century Dutch ‘Smokers + Drinkers’ above
Food Louvers Susan Feess, Wan Yan + Tara Byrne posing as 17th Century Dutch ‘Smokers + Drinkers’ above, photo by James Feess

Creativity was abounding while the Foodies in France went Treasure Hunting. There were three separate prizes — well, really there was only one special prize, which was a delectable gift certificate to Alisa Morov’s Sweet Pea Baking (and that went to the team who actually won the hunt), but there were three honourable, peerless, shall we call them inimitable categories of excellence and with each category creativity was abounding! While they were off gathering their treasure, each of the 7 teams thought of names for themselves (as listed below), additionally there was a twitter prize (which brought about some of the funniest tweets I’ve ever come across, thanks to Erin Czarra) and lastly, if you  happened to go for the above Simon de Vos 17th Century Smokers and Drinkers painting, hefty bonus points were given you for a limerick on the subject of debauchery.

Perfectly Sweet Paris posing in front of 15th C Italian Bacchanalian Ewers
Perfectly Sweet Paris posing drunken for da big bonus points in front of 15th C Italian Bacchanalian Ewers

The second prize was for the team with the most creative name. This was voted  democratically during our delish and debauched Tuileries picnic, with one of the two lovely Sweet Peas, Margaux, tallying the score:

Drunken Foodgasm – The team who won the tweet prize, due to their brilliant Cat + Mouse, cloak + dagger creativity. Penned so to speak by Erin Czarra of EC in Paris, Drunken Foodgasm partners-in-crime were Sarah Ouadah + Hélène Guinaudeau. They won Louvre Pens to balance their tweeting prowess — and exercise their hand muscles opposed to their phone tapping abilities!

Food Louvers – winners of the Team Name Prize (a Delacroix puzzle). With their photo above and their limerick below, a warm congrats to Tara Byrne and Wan Yan, of Cook’N With Class, and James and Susan Feess, of Feels Like Home in Paris

Four Graces (who won the actual Food + Wine THATLou, so they get a whole paragraph below).

Gorgon Girls – in direct reference to the Gorgon post, their guess for the bonus points was noble as they guessed the question was related to the myth of Medusa and her immortal Gorgon sisters. The GGs contributed a great limerick, as well (which sadly I neglected to copy in the dark of the picnic). A big congrats to Randa Akhras, Cori McAfee and Aimee Holmes

Louvre Lushes – One of two 5-person teams (the larger the team the harder to navigate), the Lushes did admirably with the Norman co-hosts Jenny Beaumont and Jennifer Greco, of Chez Loulou France, joined by Lindsey Tramuta of Lost in Cheeseland, Christi Garcia and Jane whose Marais cooking school La Cuisine Paris overlooks the banks of the Seine.

Perfectly Sweet Paris – Their adorable name was coined in an April Kids THATLou, when masterminds Gail Boisclair (of Perfectly Paris) + Alisa Morov (of Sweet Pea Baking) joined forces with their daughters. Sweet Peas Maia + Margaux were back, but one small tweak was Xavier Macarrilla replaced Yasmin, Gail’s cheshire-cat smiling daughter (as seen here).

Smoking Monkeys and The Old Masters – whose team consisted of Abby Gordon of Paris Weekender, Steve Rhinds of Bear With a Wooden Spoon and Adele Maze, who’s visiting Paris for 5 weeks.  Their name got a good chortle to our votes

Hélène Guinaudeau, Erin Czarra + Sarah Ouadah
Drunken Foodgasm, Winners of the most creative (+ plentiful) tweets, who claimed they’d be dreaming of Greek pots all night. Hélène Guinaudeau, Erin Czarra + Sarah Ouadah

The following debauched limericks were written on the go:

Team Perfectly Sweet Paris
There once were some guys who were Dutch
And we knew that they drank way too much!
Debauchery is fine
and can boggle the mind
as long as you don’t go home with a crutch.


The Food Louvers:

There once was a dame called Delia,
Debauched and divine
She swigged lots of wine
Then picked up a dude
who liked all her moves
And gave her a spin in the Louvre!

Margaux, Maia, Xavier Macarrilla and Gail Boisclair
Perfectly Sweet Paris’s Margaux, Maia, Xavier Macarrilla and Gail Boisclair, racking up bonus pts by capturing all 4 corners of a mammoth Fr Feasting painting

Last but not least, a huge congratulations to the Four Graces whose score broke the THATMuse record! Their secret weapon was La Belle in France‘s Stephanie Elle, whose art history degree (and current art business masters) paid off in navigating the Graces through 65,000m of Louvre. Another of the Graces Margaux Beaulieu, was no doubt quick to pick up bonus points as she’s been helping THATMuse out this summer (Margaux’s opinions + advice are bar-none what run the company. I will be very happy for her when she lands the perfect Event Planning job (please be in touch if you know of an opening), but when this happens THATMuse’s productivity will be enormously depleted). Then there was a glamourous Nordic half of the Graces representing 7 Jades.

Louvre
Chez Loulou‘s gorgeous night shot of the Louvre, taken from our delicious Foodies in France picnic on the grass of the Tuileries
The Cross-Purpose Greek Pot
09 February 2014
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The Cross-Purpose Greek Pot


The Louvre Greek and Roman Antiquities, from louvre.fr

Ok, enough horsing around here, we’re going to cut strait to the chase and give you a sample, a teaser, a piece of the hunt! Which THATLou, you ask? Well, the below morsel is particularly great because it could fit into any number of near-future hunts.

Meet the Cross-Purpose Greek Pot, a world-famous Dinos by the Gorgon Painter…

There are two THATLous that this Dinos would be perfect for

– as the previous Gorgon post discussed, the very word the Greeks gave these ghoulish creatures means Horrible or Terrible. Terribly appropriate for Beauty + the Bestiary THATLou. Bestiary has been touched on here and there in past blog posts with Darius the Great’s wonderful Frieze of Griffins, and those gentle protecting Lamassus).

– And where would you find a Dinos other than at a symposium (FEAST) that the Greeks lingered over endlessly (appropriate for Foodies in France who may just opt to see the Louvre from the perspective of Food + Wine)? Of course a Dinos fits in there perfectly, to ground the floating debauched bacchuses from flying about, perhaps a bit too much wine needs some water!

Anyway, enough chatter from me. Here’s your hint, take it and run for the THATLou prize!


Gorgon Painter Greek pot at louvre, taken from Eschatology.com 

ATTIC BLACK-FIGURE DINOS, by the GORGON PAINTER

Cerveteri (from Athens, Greece), Circa 580 BC

Clay, H 93cm


A Dinos was used to mix water and wine – and stood on a tall stand so the servants didn’t have to stoop during the long banquets that Dinoses were made for (The Greeks drank a lot of wine, but always diluted). This early Attic Dinos is of particular importance because it gave the Gorgon Painter his name – referring to the scene on one side of the pot with Perseus being chased by the Goggle-Eyed Gorgons, after he murdered their sister Medusa, shown collapsing after Perseus lobbed off her head: Death taking hold of her before our very eyes. Remember Medusa had turned all those who dared look in her eyes to stone. Perseus was clever enough (with Athena’s help) to approach her using the reflection of his shield like a rear-view mirror, thus avoiding his demise. The Gorgon Painter is one of the earliest masters of the Black Figure technique and a pioneer of the Attic tradition of figurative decoration on pottery. There is a convergence of influences on this Dinos – among the series of bands of friezes with alternating plant motifs and animals, including bestiary such as sphinxes and mermaids there are also male figures, a reference to the Oriental tradition of the Master of Animals.

POINTS: XXX (depends on the hunt)

Denon, lower ground floor, room 1 (in the “Pre-Classical Greek” section next to the Islamic collection)



Attic Black-Figured Dinos, by the Gorgon Painter, Louvre.fr This is the only vase by the Gorgon Painter – who was prolific – to depict a complex narrative, but also the first Attic vase to do so at all… Don’t nod off — this is interesting enough stuff folks, to merit some bonus points!

For a background on Athenian red and black-figure vase painting the Met has a thorough summary here. As for their shapes, Wikipedia has a wonderful collection of photographs with their names – which if you click on the names will of course lead you to their purpose. Click here for that visit.

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Remember if things are in bold it may just mean they’ll help you out with bonus questions embedded in your treasure hunt… In other words, worth taking note of!
The Basanite Babe
11 December 2013
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The Basanite Babe



Livia Drusilla, standing marble sculpture as Ops, with wheat sheaf and cornucopia, 1st C BC, Louvre


Livia Drusilla, first Empress of Rome, was indisputably the most powerful woman in the Julio-Claudian Roman Empire. All Julio-Claudian emperors were her direct descendents, despite having a childless marriage to the 1st Emperor of Rome, Augustus (formerly Octavian Augustus, back when there was a triumvirate and Rome was a Republic). This marriage lasted 50 years and by all accounts was a partnership of two clever minds. Livia (58 BC – 29 AD) saw to it that her son Augustus’s step-son, inherited the throne. This, despite the fact that Augustus intended five others to inherit the throne (all of whom happened to die, some under rather suspicious conditions).



Basanite bust of Empress Livia (58 BC – 29 AD), Louvre


Because this bust is basanite (a volcanic rock), it’s believed to have been sculpted just after the Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC), when Octavian Augustus seized Cleopatra’s kingdom (the loss of this naval battle caused Mark Anthony to commit suicide). This would have made Livia 27 years old, already an able leader just as cunning as her Egyptian counterpart, Queen Cleopatra. 

With senators on both sides of her family, Livia was not only the crème of the Roman aristocratic crop, she also had financial independence from Emperor Augustus (and from her former husband, the father of her two sons) through being granted the ‘marks of status’ in 35 AD, which was rarely granted to women. Soon thereafter she was also granted the sancrosancitas, which gave her the same rights Augustus had.

Tacitus described Livia as malevolent and called her a “feminine bully” and Robert Graves had a ball depicting her shrewd ambition in I, Claudius as the epitome of a scheming matriarch poisoning anyone who crossed her, and anyone who got in the path of her son Tiberius inheriting the throne (though Graves did a great service to widening our BBC knowledge of Roman History, he might have been slightly fictitious). But no one questioned the fact of either her cunning intelligence or her absolute power. Second only to her husband. The Julio-Claudian family tree can be slightly complicated with brothers and sisters marrying (Caligula, for one), but all of the Emperors stemmed from Livia. Tiberius (14-37 AD) was her son, Caligula (37-41 AD) her grandson, Claudius (41 – 54 AD) her grandson, Nero (54-68 AD) her great-grandson.

With so many anecdotes under her belt, Livia is a perfect candidate for plenty of THATLou Themes, from Kings + Leaders to Ladies au Louvre or seen as Ops holding wheat she could even be suitable for the Thanksgiving Food + Wine hunt. Wheat was free in Rome, which is perhaps why their bread is so delicious … 2000 years of practice with the forno certainly shows off! As for her Cornucopia, abounding with fruit, there’s another larger one found two rooms over in this Denon ground floor (Rez-de-Chausse, in French). 

Things in bold are sometimes references to bonus questions…
The Borghese Beauty
04 February 2015
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The Borghese Beauty

In our most recent THATMuse post we lingered on an introduction to the Borghese Collection at the Louvre. Though necessary, it was honestly a bit sober. So in developing this story line (before getting to the actual crux — an item or two of the collection itself!) I thought we needed some juicy gossip. And what makes for juicier gossip than scandal? It’s hard to top the stories of Messalina, as touched on in a previous post, but Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s sister and wife to Prince Camillo Borghese, certainly comes a close second in “shock” factor. 



Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix, at Galleria Borghese, Rome, www.wikipedia.org

She was the beauty of the family, 6th of the 8 children born to Napoleon’s parents in Ajaccio, Corsica. At the age of 16, in 1796 (just as Napoleon was starting to make his mark on history, during the Italian Campaign), she fell madly in love with a 40-year old syphilitic philanderer. To distract her, the family married her off to one of Napoleon’s soldiers, General Victor Emmanuel Leclerc (whom Nappy incidentally caught her being let’s say, indiscreet with behind a screen at the Palazzo Mombello in Milano — but I get the idea he didn’t share this morsel with his family).  

Despite having a son by Leclerc (Dermide, whom Napoleon, ever the control-freak, named), Pauline set herself up with many a lover. The family was posted to Haiti, which is where she may have developed her taste for sleeping with black men. It is well documented (a small bit of trivia that I remember from high school when we had to spend time at the Museo Napoleonico in Rome. Just as an aside, these completely un-useful bits of trivia is exactly how my history teachers hooked me on their rich subject) that she was in the habit of having her large black servant, Paul, carry her to the bath every day, and would spend an inordinate number of hours receiving guests from the bath – talk about being hungry for attention! She’d also apparently use ladies-in-waiting as foot servants — literally stepping on their backs.



Portrait of PrinceCamillo Borghese, by Francois Gerard (1770-1837) location unknown, wikipedia.org

Unlike either her older brother (who spent a large part of his life being her PR spin doctor, in addition to being self-appointed ‘Emperor’ of Europe) or Messalina (3rd Empress of Rome and a flagrant hussy), Pauline didn’t seem to have any ambition — her interest was pure frivolity and sex. Eight months after Leclerc died she secretly remarried the handsome Prince Camillo Borghese. This rush infuriated Napoleon (Ironically with such a sister, Napoleon tried to instill a code of good morals. Compare Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Mme. Recamier (1800, at the Louvre) to Antonio Canova’s sculpture of Pauline – which at her request was nearly nude and posed as Venus Victrix – 1805-8 at the Galleria Borghese). Throughout her infidelities, there was a modicum of decency and even loyalty about her. Though she swiftly cheated on Borghese — who was forced into selling a large part of his family’s art collection to his nouveau-riches self-coronated Emperor brother-in-law — she also secured Camillo the post of Governor of Piedmont and guardian of Napoleon’s prisoner, Pope Pius VII (two tasks Camillo coveted). And though she caused a lot of trouble for her brother (who adored her), she is also the only Bonaparte sibling to have supported him after he was deposed and sent to Elba. 



British Embassy on rue du Fbg St Honore, taken from flickr.com/eisenphotovideo


In fact according to Alistair Horne’s The Age of Napoleon, she liquidated most of her assets to go and live with Nappy in Elba and better his situation (although she kept her pretty frocks `to make him happy`). Among her assets was a sumptuous little number on rue du Faubourg St-Honore which she sold to the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo, and which since then has been the British Embassy of France. Apparently Wellington “gained the respect of the Parisians when, as the victor, he could have grabbed it for nothing, but insisted on paying the full price.



Pauline Borghese’s Paris Palace, now the British Embassy taken from Hector Berlioz’s website

Just as a small reminder – when little morsels are randomly placed in bold, it just may mean that those could conceivably arise as answers to bonus questions. The Borghese Beauty is applicable to any number of THATLous, since the Borghese Collection has the Three Graces (Beauty), wild satyrs (Bestiary), wonderful Craters (Food & Wine), and Roman Sarcophagi (Skull Scouting Halloween Hunt), etc. 


English historian Alistair Horne has written a number of great books on Napoleon and his time. And here’s a good New York Times article about the Borghese Collection au Louvre (no bonus questions – just if interested).