Christopher Menz reviews 'The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals' edited by Marcia Reed and 'Food in Art: From Prehistory to the Renaissance' by Gillian Riley

Christopher Menz reviews 'The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals' edited by Marcia Reed and 'Food in Art: From Prehistory to the Renaissance' by Gillian Riley

The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals book

edited by Marcia Reed

Getty Research Institute, $62 hb, 190 pp, 9781606064542

Food in Art: From Prehistory to the Renaissance

by Gillian Riley

Reaktion Books, $69.99 hb, 319 pp, 9781780233628

Food in history is a tantalising thing. Although we may have recipes, firsthand descriptions, and images, we can never be sure how things really looked or tasted. Much of the work of food historians has been focused on creative use of available sources, not to provide facsimile meals, but to gain insight into the cultural role of food of the past. Two recent books explore different aspects of food in history. Both are, refreshingly, free of recipes.

From the Getty Research Institute comes a fascinating new volume, The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals (Getty Research Institute, $62 hb, 190 pp, 9781606064542), which accompanied a recent exhibition of the same name. The exhibition at the Getty Centre, Los Angeles, was drawn from the Getty's rich holdings of illustrated books, prints, manuscripts, and decorative arts, supplemented with loaned works. It was a compelling visual record of a vanished art form.

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Christopher Menz

Christopher Menz

Christopher Menz is a former Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia. He has published on the design work of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones, and is a regular contributor to ABR.

Published in April 2016, no. 380

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