Fêtes and Feasts: Diplomatic Dining and the Noble Table 1660-1830
What do Italian architects, English, French and German diplomats and noblemen, and French chefs all have in common? Between the 17th century and 1830, they served up fantastical “table architecture” to honor their noble and royal guests.
These tables showcased lavish temples; beautiful arrangements of food; specially created sugar and porcelain sculptures; silver and gilded display pieces; and even table fireworks.
Marriages, diplomatic visits and treaty signings turned these meals into theatrical extravaganzas, in which the chef played the role of master of ceremonies, organizing all the details including musical entertainment to accompany the cuisine. When James II of England acceded to the throne in 1685, he sent Lord Castlemayne to Rome as Ambassador to the Vatican where he arranged an elaborate banquet in honor of the Pope.
While Italy and France led the way in culinary fashion, English visitors and diplomats were often the beneficiaries and sometimes the hosts. Chef Antonin Câreme’s splendid dinner for the Treaty of Versailles attended by Alexander I of Russia, Tallyrand, and others led to the chef briefly being lured to England by George IV for a State Dinner for Tsar Alexander in 1816, who tempted the chef to then travel to Russia.
Sarah Coffin, will recount some of these amazing meals and illustrate the elaborate table settings and accoutrements devised to impress guests from the top echelons of European society and royalty. She will provide first-hand accounts by observers, as well as show prints and paintings that show the masterpieces that were created for the pleasures of the table.