Created 2000, updated 2004, with minor edits in 2010
Author: Marcia Reed, former Getty Research Institute Associate Director and Chief Curator
Feasts for the eye and sustenance for the body, ornate architecture and sculptures made of edible materials were significant aspects of festival celebrations. These elaborate banquets and displays of food as works of art were essential events in the festive progress from magnificent entry to final fireworks. Documentary records of court banquets and street festivals include small promotional publications (libretti) as well as illustrated festival books and single prints. Although early serving manuals and rare cookbooks can be seen as domestic science, in fact, they demonstrate how the lore of culinary history and its protocols enhances the iconography of art history, providing additional details on the symbolism of menus, seasonal ingredients, and table arrangements that elucidate the complex art and patronage of festivals.