A Feast for the EyesArt, Performance, and the Late Medieval Banquet

A Feast for the EyesArt, Performance, and the Late Medieval Banquet

Christina Normore

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226242200

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Even centuries later, to read accounts of late medieval banquets is to enter a fantastic world where gilded stags burst into song, the Holy Church may suddenly appear to beg aid from the assembled nobles, and four and twenty musicians play within a pie. This book brings together the understudied array of surviving artworks, archival documents, chroniclers accounts and cookbooks to retrace these events and reassess the late medieval visual culture in which they were so highly prized. Patronized by trend-setting rulers such as the Valois Dukes of Burgundy and drawing on the talents of the leading artists of their day, feasts challenge current understanding of the pivotal artistic changes that took place as the late medieval world gave way to the early modern. This book therefore not only offers the first synthetic art historical study of banqueting, but also considers how the insights yielded from it might cast new light on the work in other media, particularly the paintings of the Flemish Primitives. It argues that late medieval feast participants developed sophisticated ways of both appreciating artistic skill and attending to their own processes of perception, forging a court culture in which the exercise of judgment could be a source of delight as well as a practical necessity. Late medieval feasts are simultaneously examined to rethink numerous theoretical categories commonly used in art history more broadly, yielding fresh insight into the longer history of multimedia, collaborative production, wonder, magnificence and the complex relationships possible between spectacle and spectators.