A keystone to human existence, essential to our survival and one of the greatest joys in life, food has always played a critical role in the social and cultural lifestyle.
From the depictions of lavish banquets and bacchanals in Ancient Greece and Rome, the food drawings found inside Egyptian pyramids, all through Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to Arcimboldo’s acclaimed food portraits, and the famous Dutch still lifes hiding dark secrets behind exotic delicacies, to the consumer culture reflected in Andy Warhol’s works and long afterwards, food has always been present and celebrated in all artistic forms, painting above all.
Food in Romanian painting
Coming from a predominantly agrarian society, Romanian cuisine has always relied on meat, game, fish, fruit and vegetables, so it’s no wonder they feature largely in paintings depicting food. However, high society was accustomed, beginning with the 18th century, to haute cuisine, Oriental spices, rich, buttery sauces and sumptuous meals, via Paris or Vienna.
Artists themselves—those who could afford it, obviously—would host suppers and parties, which they later depicted in their works. According to art historian Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, painter Theodor Aman (1831-1891) had a natural inclination for the refined living, famously giving dinner parties and organising concerts and masked balls. The resulting paintings turned him into a fashionable chronicler of his time and society.
Following American poet Robert Hass’ invitation,
Surround yourself with friends,
Huddle in a warm place.
Ladle. Eat.Robert Hass / Songs to Survive the Summer
let us start a culinary journey in search of food in Romanian painting, from the academic art of Theodor Aman and Nicolae Grigorescu to the celebrated contemporary works of Ștefan Câlția and Sorin Ilfoveanu.
Featured image: Theodor Aman, Still Life with Cherries / wikimedia