Monday, December 01, 2008

Dessert in the form of a winter landscape

I've recently been reading to my son Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with its chocolate waterfall and minty grass, and so was tempted by a link on Arts & Letters Daily to look at the food landscapes of photographer Carl Warner. Apparently 'the images can take up to two or three days to build and photograph and then a couple of days retouching and fine-tuning them to blend together all the elements, such as parmesan cliffs with sweet potato boulders and cress and savoy cabbage foliage under a red cabbage sky.'

The subject of foodscapes puts me in mind of the Manifesto of Futurist Cooking (1930). Marinetti's section on sculpted meat highlights a recipe devised by Futurist painter Fillia for rissole of minced veal stuffed with eleven kinds of green vegetables provided 'a symbolic interpretation of all the varied landscapes of Italy'. Marinetti also refers to Enrico Prampolini's Equator + North Pole - 'an equatorial sea of poached egg yolks' surrounding 'a cone of firmly whipped egg white'.

Back in 1600, the marriage in Lyon of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV involved (according to Roy Strong in his book Feast) 'every kind of late mannerist fantasy. On the high table were two oak trees seemingly made of snow with white leaves and silver garlands. Beneath their branches a hunt was in progress.' At a certain moment, 'from beneath the floor arose a table bearing dessert in the form of a winter landscape.' The meal ended with a sugar garden full of birds, fruit and flowers. Such sugar sculptures form a whole subgenre of the foodscape - the engraving reproduced below shows a sugar collation from the wedding of Johann Wilhem, heir to the duke of J├╝lich-Cleve, in 1587.

5 comments:

Sorlil said...

Those food landscapes are amazing!

Roxana said...

I have to thank sorlil for sending me here, such an interesting blog, Plinius! and thanks for the historical background of the food landscapes, I'm amazed!

Poor Pothecary said...

Nice: doing with landscape art what Arcimboldo did with portraiture.

Plinius said...

Thanks for the comments. I think Carl Warner should try some naturalistic food landscapes - see how close he can get to a real view. Or, for even more of a challenge, try doing a Cezanne painting in food...

I'd be quite interested in seeing these landscapes after the food starts to go off. Andy Goldsworthy photographs his sculptures after they have started to fall apart as well as when they're pristine.

Yes, Arciboldo was painting at the time of all those sugar sculptures. Some of his most famous portraits show the elements and the seasons - these could easily be themes for landscape art (or poetry). But I think my favourite Arciboldo is his depiction of a lawyer.

Aparna said...

I have visited this article through your blog (which you mentioned in your blog). Those food landscapes are really amazing.