THATMuse

Did you see Stephanie Blaser’s Impressionism-inspired feast when we posted it a few weeks ago? She shared recipes for fish in foil, accompanied by a side of summer vegetables, roasted in the oven, and both inspired by Impressionist paintings.

Delicious! But we can’t help thinking that it left us just a little hungry for dessert…

Well, long-time friend of THATMuse, Élodie has us covered with this recipe for madeleines, inspired by Francois Boucher’s painting, Family Taking Breakfast. Yum!

Chocolate and Coffee Madeleines, inspired by François Boucher’s Family Taking Breakfast

The Painting

François Boucher’s Family Taking Breakfast, 1739: A peaceful breakfast scene in an affluent household in the 18th century.

In this manifesto of bourgeois life, François Boucher shows life in the time of King Louis XV: the attire with lace and silk, the Rocaille style décor… and the clear taste for the exotic.  

Do you see that little figure on the shelf? It’s a magot, a small grotesque figure of Japanese or Chinese style, which were popular at the time.  You might have heard of Les Deux Magots, a famous café in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, which is named for two of the same type of figurine which live there.

Other hints at this taste for the East are the vase on the console on the left, and the fine porcelain, probably from China, on the red lacquer table.

As for the contents of that china, there have been endless talks about the drink that is being served in this painting. Is it hot chocolate? Or coffee? The hot serving pot, at the exact center of the painting, could be used for either drink. Neither the hot pot or the cups indicate what drink they were intended for, so art historians will have to continue to fight on this one!

Perhaps it was coffee: after all, King Louis XV was a keen coffee drinker, who even had coffee trees planted at Trianon. Both coffee and chocolate were imported from far away, and were therefore expensive and trendy. Tableware like the serving pots and cups we see in this painting was created for these new, exciting products.

But there’s something else unusual about this painting, which we don’t really notice nowadays. At the time it was painted, showing such an image of domestic intimacy and including children was very modern. It’s interesting that mothers – not nannies – are looking lovingly at the children, and that they even have toys made for children (the little horse, the doll).

As for my favourite part of the painting: I love the little detail on the child on the bottom right. She is wearing a bourrelet: a padded headband intended to protect the head from bumps and falls!

The Recipe

Bakes 24 mini madeleine cakes

Ingredients

  • 80g butter (1/3  cup or  ¾ stick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 120g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
  • 4g baking powder (1/3 tablespoon)
  • 50g chocolate chips (1/3 cup)
  • 12 tbsp instant coffee (could be replaced by 3 tablespoons of coffee extract, or for a different flavour, vanilla extract)

Directions

  1. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan.
  2. Add the eggs, sugar and salt to a bowl and briskly stir to bring the batter to a smooth, almost foamy consistency.
  3. Add flour and baking powder, and the melted butter, and stir briskly again. Add chocolate and coffee (save a few chips and 2 spoons of coffee for presentation). Stir and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C (450°F). Take the batter out of the fridge, give it a stir (if it’s too hard, add a tablespoon of milk).
  5. Grease the inside of the madeleine molds with butter and flour. Turn molds upside down to get rid of any excess flour.
  6. Fill the molds, not completely to allow rising. Add leftover chocolate chips and coffee powder on top for decoration.
  7. Cook for 10 minutes in the oven.
  8. Take out of the mold immediately and let cool on a cooling rack
  9. Enjoy!
I took my own family porcelain out for the photo, and placed it in front of my wallpaper which represents Paris in the 1730s, exactly when the painting was created. And of course I chose the Louvre detail for the backdrop, a wink to the place where you can now see the painting!

Élodie Berta is a travel trade pro and licensed guide in all of France. As head of the MICE division of marketing for the Paris Tourist Board, and knows the Louvre and Paris like the back of her hand. We’ve been lucky enough to have Élodie as a friend of THATMuse for many years, since Élodie attended her first THATMuse (then THATLou) hunt at the Louvre in 2012, when we launched the Skull Scouting theme. Élodie tweets about all things Paris at @Paris_by_Elodie.

By Stephanie Blaser

When it comes to cooking, inspiration can come in many forms. And what better form can we look to than art, which is itself a feast for the senses? Today, we are turning to still-life paintings from two 19th Century friends and founders of the Impressionist style – Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir – for our culinary inspiration.

This is the first of two posts written by friends of THATMuse about recipes inspired by art! Want the next post direct to your inbox? Sign up to our mailing list!

1. The Main Course: Fish in Foil, Inspired by Édouard Manet’s Fish (Still Life)

Fish (Still Life), 1864, Édouard Manet, Art Institute of Chicago

The Painting

Though not one of Manet’s most famous works, this painting is a good representation of the artist’s interest in the still life genre. During the early 1860s, the interest in nature morte  (‘dead nature’, as the French say) as a genre was waning, due in large part to a growing middle class, with different tastes. However, Manet’s still lifes are anything but morte, with the vigorous brushstrokes and diagonal placement of the carp making this one appear full of movement. Unlike his more famous works, Manet never submitted still lifes to the Paris Salon, but instead sold them to independent galleries or gave them away to friends.

The Recipe

Ingredients:

8 ounces of thick, firm white fish per portion (Black Sea bass, cod, or halibut are great choices)

  • 1 bulb fennel – thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots – cut into matchsticks
  • 1 shallot – diced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cilantro (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Sautée carrots and fennel in olive oil 3-5 minutes or until slightly softened. Add shallot and continue sautéeing 2 more minutes. Transfer ½ cup of the vegetable mixture to the center of a large piece of cooking foil.
  2. Place a portion of fish on top of the vegetable mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a pat of butter, uncooked fennel fronds, two slices of lemon, and a sprig of cilantro (optional).
  3. Fold cooking foil to create a tight seal around the fish. Place pouches on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 20-22 minutes.
  4. Cut cooking foil to release steam. Then carefully remove fish and vegetables from the foil. Serve over rice.
Fruits of the Midi, 1881, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Art Institute of Chicago

2. On the Side: Roasted Vegetable Medley, Inspired by Fruits of the Midi by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The Painting

One of the fathers of the Impressionism movement, Pierre-Auguste Renoir is most famous for works such as Dance at Le Moulin de Galette, depicting quick snapshots of life, full of energy and movement. However, as this painting shows, he was also skilled at still lifes, injecting them with vibrant light and saturated color. Aren’t these delicious-looking summer vegetables just crying out to be roasted?

The Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant (aubergine) – cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 onion – remove outer skin, cut in half, then cut into 1-inch slice
  • 1 zucchini (courgette) – cut into 1-inch thick rounds
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper – remove seeds and inner membranes, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 tomato – cut into 8 wedges
  • ¼ C. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ Tsp. dry basil (optional)
  • ¼ Tsp. dry rosemary, crushed (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C).
  2. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add basil and rosemary, if desired.
  3. Roast uncovered for 20-25 minutes, turning once.

So there you have it! An artistic feast, inspired by Impressionist art.

Hungry for dessert? Well, you’ll just have to keep an eye on the blog…

Chicago residents Stephanie and her husband John are foodies who love both making divine dishes they share on Facebook to travelling for world-renowned restaurants… So it should be of no surprise that when they came across THATLou they chose our Food & Wine hunt, which we built for both foodies travelling to Paris as well as for the American contingent of expats who were tuning into their Thanksgiving roots in November.

According to an article on the British Museum blog in 2017, the most popular seach term on their website was “Egypt”. This isn’t very surprising, but the second most popular term, “shunga” is more interesting. But what is shunga? And why are so many people searching for it? Well, shunga is a type of Japanese erotic art. The British Museum hosted a great shunga exhibition in 2014, which perhaps goes some way to explain the search term. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the history of shunga, and the influence it had on later artists around the world. But first, a warning. Since we’re talking erotic art here, this post does of course contain some content that is decidedly NSFW.

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Most people know that the Ancient Greeks invented democracy, and the Olympic Games. Ancient Greek philosophers and Greek tragedies are famous all over the world, and mythological stories from Ancient Greece still fascinate and inspire us today. But you may not know how much of the technology we rely on today is thanks to the inventions of Ancient Greece. In this post, we delve into the world of Ancient Greek technology, to learn about some ancient inventions that we still use in our daily lives.

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For as long as there has been VR technology, there have been half-excited, half-scaremongering think pieces proclaiming that a new age of tourism has begun. Physical tourism is out, and “virtual tourism” is in. Well, we haven’t quite reached the stage where a vacation mean a trip to the living room. We haven’t given up on visiting museums in favour of touring them with only a VR headset.

But, since we’re all more or less marooned at home at the moment, it is useful to know that museums have, apparently, been preparing for the apocalypse all along. From basic functions allowing you to explore museum collections online using their websites to fully-fledged virtual museum tours, there is a way to see all five of our museums online, from the comfort of your own home.

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What do you think of when you picture life in Ancient Greece? Philosophy? Wine? Drinking parties? The Olympic Games? Well, you’re not wrong. These were all important parts of life for the people of Ancient Greece.

But there’s something missing from the picture: women. The women of ancient Greece had far fewer rights than men. They couldn’t vote, they couldn’t participate in drinking parties and their main role in life was to raise their kids.  As children, young Greek girls were under the authority of their father. And after marriage, their husbands became their official guardians.

But how did the life of Ancient Greek women change from childhood to maturity? Were there exceptions? And what did their daily life look like?

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We’re all finding different ways of coping with being stuck at the home during the lockdown. Some people are nurturing new passions for crafts, from knitting to felting to jewellery-making. Others are taking to the kitchen, discovering new recipes and baking more bread than they could possibly eat. And of course, all of us are just trying our best to get on with it. Whatever that might mean for each of us.

Personally, I’m extremely grateful in these times for the arts. Not just fine art of the sort you might find in our museums. But everything: from Netflix to books to Hollywood films to music. And particularly, I’m grateful for podcasts.

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Getting bored at home? If you’re anything like us, you’ll be missing visiting museums, and learning about history. So why not use some of the extra time on your hands to make (and play!) one of these ancient board games? After all, if there’s one thing we know about at THATMuse, it’s making history into a game.

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If you scrolled through social media over the weekend, you can’t have missed that last Sunday was Mother’s Day. Or at least, over in the US (and most other countries) it was (here in the UK we celebrate it in March, lest my fellow Brits start panicking on behalf of their neglected mums). In honour of mothers everywhere, we’re sharing some of our favourite mothers in art history. Though all of these ladies can be found at the Louvre, none of them are actually French by birth. But they’re all mothers (good or bad), and are important to the history of France in one way or another.

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In Ancient Greek mythology, Nike was the Goddess who personified Victory.  Personifications weren’t rare in Greek religion. For example, Arete was the Goddess of excellence and virtue, and Aeltheia was the spirit of truth. Sister of Kratos (Stregth), Bia (Force), and Zelus (Zeal), the Greek Goddess of Victory was famous for her grace, strength and speed.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my favourite books about Paris to read while stuck at home. I lived in Paris for six years, so I have a pretty good idea of the books which realistically portray the city (and those that don’t but are enjoyable anyway).

I’m not, and nor have I ever been, a Londoner. So I’m not the person to ask about whether the books about London offer a realistic picture of their setting.

But I do read a lot, and I have read a decent handful of books set in London over the years. So, if you’re dreaming of a trip to London while stuck in lockdown (or indeed stuck in lockdown in London, dreaming of going outside), read on for a few of my favourites. 

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In the last 15 years, the Percy Jackson series has become one of the most popular book and movie franchises of our time. Fans of the series will know that Percy’s adventures mirror many of the deeds of the Greek hero Perseus, the inspiration for his character. But how well do you know the real story of Perseus and his nemesis, Medusa? In this blog post, we’ll delve into the real mythological story of Perseus and Medusa. So, take a seat and get ready to learn about gods and demi-gods, love, drama, monsters and heroes!

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