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Deborah L. Krohn
Associate Professor and Chair of Academic Programs, Bard Graduate Center

“Exhibition in Progress: Staging the Table in Europe, 1500–1800

Staging the Table in Europe, 1500–1800 reimagines spaces of display and performance in early modern Europe through examination of the arts of the table. The heart of the exhibition is a group of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century illustrated manuals and handbooks that contain instructions for carving meats and fruits, and folding napkins, as well as directing conversation and other kinds of tableside activity.  Books with surprisingly similar images appeared in Italy, Germany, France, England, and the Dutch Republic, attesting to a shared language for staging the table as well as demonstrating some of the myriad ways in which knowledge was circulated throughout Europe.

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These sources reveal the rich material culture that accompanied lavish banquets and state events and enable us to build out the world in which they were created and consumed. While several of the texts are key sources for culinary history as well as histories of manners and domestic service, they have not been mined for their significance for decorative arts or material culture studies. Many of them preserve evidence of ephemeral sculpture made of edible foods and shape-shifting textiles that defied material expectations.

By showcasing multiple copies of these sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books together with examples of the material culture of the table and credenza, including sets of carving tools, linen napkins and tablecloths, and didactic playing cards for the teaching of carving, Staging the Table and its accompanying catalogue will rematerialize early modern dining practices and shed light on the social, artisanal, and commercial networks that enabled this trans-national culture.

Tuesday, March 2, 12:15 pm

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This event is open to the BGC community and invited guests of the speaker. This event will be held via Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 10 am on the day of the event.