Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Food Related Painting of the Week

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha
Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez
ca. 1620

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, Oil on canvas, National Gallery, London
(from the Web Gallery of Art)

Yet another painting that is a bit too late (1620) to be considered properly medieval. This is one of those odd "inside-out" paintings where the title refers to what's going on in the background. Of course, I prefer it this way - those pesky important figures don't get in the way of the detail.

The young woman in the foreground is preparing some kind of fish dish, which features garlic and eggs. She's grinding the garlic or some unpictured spice in a mortar. It's worth noting that medieval cooks would have covered the top of the mortar with a tied piece of cloth if they were grinding a spice that would make a lot of dust, so my guess is the garlic.

What's really interesting in this painting though is the presence of a dried chili pepper just in front of the bowl of fish. This may be the earliest depiction of a capsicum pepper in European art (I haven't found anything earlier).

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