Date Made/Found: around 1740
Material and Medium: engraving on paper
Dimensions: Frame: 277 x 386mm (10 7/8 x 15 3/16in.)
Image size: 253 x 361mm (9 15/16 x 14 3/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2004.1280
This engraving of a dining scene dates to around 1740 and originates from France.
The diners appear to be eating from wooden trenchers, or perhaps pewter plates. On the table is a pedestal stemmed salt. A plate piled high with salad leaves sits in front of one guest. A lady has lifted a single leaf from her own plate using her fingers. In France, the custom was that salad leaves should not be cut with a knife, as the steel would spoil their delicate flavour and discolour the leaves. Instead, they were ripped into pieces when the salad was made and a silver fork was used for eating them.
On the back wall of the room are a clock and two ornamental fixtures. These are in the Rococo style, which was popular in Europe at this time. The style is characterised by its ornate, scrolling designs.
Fashions in French cuisine and dining styles have long influenced how we eat in Britain. The concept of nouvelle cuisine, a style of dining popular in the later 1900s, originated from France in the 1730s. Its emphasis was on simple, lighter and smaller dishes that were cooked to perfection using the very best ingredients and served in separate courses. This contrasted with the opulence of dining in the 1600s, where the dining table was crammed full of extravagant displays of foods. This new style of dining was followed with enthusiasm among some of the upper classes, for whom it was essential to keep up with the latest fashions. However, it was scorned by others, who saw it as unpatriotic and immoral.
This work forms part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust.Display Location: