Hungry Eye: Eating, Drinking, and European Culture from Rome to the Renaissance

Barkan, Leonard


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Eating and drinking can be aesthetic experiences as well as sensory ones. The Hungry Eye takes readers from antiquity to the Renaissance to explore the central role of food and drink in literature, art, philosophy, religion, and statecraft.

In this beautifully illustrated book, Leonard Barkan provides an illuminating meditation on how culture finds expression in what we eat and drink. Plato’s Symposium is a timeless philosophical text, one that also describes a drinking party. Salome performed her dance at a banquet where the head of John the Baptist was presented on a platter. Barkan looks at ancient mosaics, Dutch still life, and Venetian Last Suppers. He describes how ancient Rome was a paradise of culinary obsessives, and explains what it meant for the Israelites to dine on manna. He discusses the surprising relationship between Renaissance perspective and dinner parties, and sheds new light on the moment when the risen Christ appears to his disciples hungry for a piece of broiled fish. Readers will browse the pages of the Deipnosophistae – an ancient Greek work in sixteen volumes about a single meal, complete with menus – and gain epicurean insights into such figures as Rabelais and Shakespeare, Leonardo and Vermeer.

A book for anyone who relishes the pleasures of the table, The Hungry Eye is an erudite and uniquely personal look at all the glorious ways that food and drink have transfigured Western arts and high culture.

‘A totally extraordinary convivium in magnificence, like a high feast of historical art superintelligence, philosophical disquisition, and supreme wit, all laid out with an abundance of gobsmacking visible stuff from Pompeii to the High Renaissance. Thingness gets to meaning, visual gets to verbal, dinner gets to the Last Supper, and we leave feeling we’d like more.’ – Mary Ann Caws, author of Creative Gatherings: Meeting Places of Modernism

‘From the table talk of ancient Rome to the painted banquets of Renaissance Italy, Barkan is a brilliant, sensual guide to the pleasures of seeing food and tasting art.’ – Emily Gowers, author of The Loaded Table: Representations of Food in Roman Literature

‘The Hungry Eye is at once a jeu d’esprit but also a profound and scholarly meditation on its topic. An impressive achievement.’ – Larry Silver, author of Marketing Maximilian: The Visual Ideology of a Holy Roman Emperor

Format: Hardback
Pages: 328
Imprint: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 14/09/2021

ISBN: 9780691211466 Category: