Posts Tagged ‘food’
(From Food and Feasting in Art [Guide to Imagery series], Silvia Malaguzzi, pp. 177-80.)
Still Life with Melon and Pears (c.1770 ), Luis Meléndez. In the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Among the many types of fruit that were known to and enjoyed by the Romans, the melon was something sophisticated and out of the ordinary for wealthier citizens and the more demanding gourmets. Apicius mentions melons in his treatise on gastronomy. They are mentioned in the Old Testament (Numb. 11:5) and were eaten regularly by the Christians. They continued to be enjoyed in the Renaissance and 17th century. In the mystic language of medieval exegesis, melons are a symbol of the earthly joys and the pleasures of the flesh. In his treatise De honesta voluptate et valetitudine, Platina claims that there is not much difference between the melons he calls pepones and those he calls malopepones, for although the latter are round and ribbed and the former are smooth and oblong, Pliny himself claims that they are much the same in appearance and flavor. According to Castore Durante, they may be difficult to digest but are thirst quenching and a diuretic. For Filippo Picinelli, they are a symbol of friendship. Because their external appearance is indicative of their inner nature.
Sources: Apicius, De re coquinaria 3.7; Pliny, Naturalis historia 19.67; Rabanus Maurus, PL 112, cols. 1026-27; Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetitudine (1474) book 1, chap. 20; Castore Durante, Il tesoro della sanita (1586, p. 199); Filippo Picinelli, Mundus Symbolicus (1687) book 10, chap 25
Meaning: Sweetness, earthly pleasures, friendship
Iconography: Melon usually appear with other fruit in still life’s from the 17th to the 19th century
Boys Eating Fruit (1645-6), Bartolomé Estéban Murillo. In Munich’s Alte Pinakothek.
[Notes on the painting]
Because wine is made from grapes, and wine is a mystic drink in Christian exegesis, these grapes may contain an allusion to the spirit and its needs.
In the mystic language of medieval exegesis, the melon symbolized earthly joys and the pleasures of the flesh.
The exchange of glances between the two boys may perhaps be interpreted as a silent dialogue about the preference for melons versus grapes as symbols of chosen lifestyles.
A sweet, tasty melon is not only a joy to eat for children and adults alike but also a symbol of friendship, because its external appearance is indicative of the quality of its flesh.
After the Pyrrhic showiness that was the ArtScience Museum, I think a contrasting perspective is called for.
The Post-Museum is the anti ASM.
Housed in a couple of shoplots on Rowell Rd., in the heart of thosai town, i.e. Little India, the P-M has been quietly serving both the fringes of the local artistic community and the wider public since 2007, earning a reputation as being an egalitarian, arts-oriented space for all.
In their own words, this plucky little institution is
… an independent cultural and social space in Singapore which aims to encourage and support a thinking and pro-active community. It is an open platform for examining contemporary life, promoting the arts and connecting people.
A ground-up project initiated by Singaporean curatorial team p-10, our current premises opened in September 2007. We are located in two 1920s shop-houses in Little India, an exciting and truly historical and multi-cultural area in Singapore. Through its activities, Post-Museum aims to respond to its location and community as well as serve as a hub for local and international cultures.
You can visit their appropriately spartan homepage here.
In addition to staging exhibitions, the P-M organizes a variety of programs, including artist residencies, talks, workshops, classes, music performances and film screenings. Community outreach clearly ranks high on the agenda with them, with some of their non art-related events earning a measure of street cred among members of the local boho crowd: the Singapore Really Really Free Market, the Soup Kitchen Project, as well as regular hosting of SinQSA (Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance) activities. Further marking their commitment to non-profit engagement with the arts, and in the best indie fashion, they’ve planned a series of initiatives to tie in with the Singapore Biennale 2011, which is happening right now (reviews coming soon, promise). OPEN *home, for instance, “offers a cozy and affordable crashpad for artists and other cultural workers who are coming to Singapore to visit the Singapore Biennale … in March. We have a large air-conditioned room which can house up to 8 persons per night (bring your own sleeping bag!). Participation is based on a pay-it-forward system plus contribution of 1 artwork per night stayed.” That’s real nice of these guys, you gotta admit. Read more about OPEN* here.
A review is also especially timely right now because, sadly enough, it seems as if the end is nigh. This communiqué was recently received from the good folk over at the P-M:
We wanted to share with you that the lease for our current premises will
run out in July this year.
After some long discussions and thinking with some of the stakeholders of
our community, we have decided not to continue operating in our current
format. Despite the discounted rent that the landlord has generously
offered us in these three years, we have so far been unable to cover all
our costs. As such, we have decided not to renew the lease of our current
premises and are currently looking at options to continue our cultural and
social work in different locations and formats.
At this moment, we do not have any concrete plans as we are busy with
programming and fundraising efforts at Post-Museum. We are happy that
several people have approached us with suggestions and offers, including
our current landlord who is tying us up with various organisations such as
Spa Esprit Group for free space and other support.
As mentioned, we are looking at the various options and are open to any
suggestions or offers for Post-Museum. Please feel free to contact us if
you have space, funds or other support to offer.
Furthermore, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who
supports us. We would also like to publicly thank our landlord for his
continued understanding and support. Without all of you, Post-Museum would
not have been possible.
On this note, we will be launching 2 series of exciting programmes at
Post-Museum from March-July. We hope you will come and continue to support
us in these coming months.
Thanks and look out for more updates soon!
Jennifer Teo & Woon Tien Wei.
Meanwhile the cash registers in the glass-swathed atrium of the ASM are ringing away to the tune of 30 big ones per entry. If any sort of cosmic justice exists, Sheldon‘s Folly will soon collapse under the weight of its own avarice and lameness.
Not that I have anything against money, don’t get me wrong. If anything, good intentions only get you so far, and the P-M I think is the best example of that. The last time I was there was – get this – in August. That’s six months ago. I’ve wanted to return since, but unfortunately shows seem to come and go in the blink of an eye there. The recent “Perspectives from the Ideal City” ran for a mere six days, and, before that, “The Pearly Gates” showed for a week. Missed both of course. Not just that, but their “Show Room” keeps rather unusual hours, being open from 6-10pm Tuesdays to Fridays, and 2-10pm on weekends. It does make it easier to pop by after work, but still, their premises aren’t exactly easy to get to, entailing either an ancillary bus ride or a long-ish trek from the nearest train station. Off the beaten track is good, but it does also ensure that only the most dedicated will make it to your doorstep.
And you gotta be really dedicated to want to make your way out there to look some amateur drawings.
Which is what I saw there last year. Shape of My Heart was held to celebrate Singapore’s 45th birthday, which happened on August 9th. Like the venue itself, the exhibition certainly looked and felt .. unorthodox. The contributors were a bunch of non-professional artists, who were tasked to produce works about local places that held some significance for them:
The exhibition features artworks created by 25 Singaporeans about places in Singapore which are meaningful to them.
These participants do not work as visual artists but come from all walks of life. Each participant was asked to create an artwork about a place in Singapore which is meaningful to him/her. The participants have created works using a variety of mediums, about places in the past, present and future Singapore.
“Amateur” is definitely the operative phrase there. The works themselves were essentially projects straight out of arts and crafts class, worked on those drawing block sheets that we all had to use back in school. These pieces were just tacked onto the wall, the way Mom and Dad would tape a particularly fetching work of yours on the fridge door – hardly the framed canvases one is used to seeing in a gallery. And neither were there any wall labels, just a xeroxed sheet listing artworks and artists (which got lost pretty quickly – or had to be returned). The improvised nature of the show was clearly deliberate, designed to dovetail with the amateur character of the art. What struck an incongruous note though, the works were laid out on in typical museum fashion – with plenty of wall space to spare, affording each individual piece the auratic tenor of museum displays. The effect was not unlike walking into one of those uppity boutiques that boasts a rack or two of merchandise, only to discover that instead of overpriced designer togs one was browsing factory outlet goods … We – CC and I – were also reminded that photography was not allowed. Its hard to imagine that copyright issues are actually in play here, but I guess even amateur art deserves legal protection.
Which also means that the images below aren’t exactly legit. So hush.
An outline of Singapore had been penciled in onto one wall, over which visitors could stick post-it notes, expressing their feelings about the country.
The evening ended with drinks at Food #03-BenBino’s next door, described as “an artwork by Woon Tien Wei which takes the form of a social enterprise café started in October 2007.” Their mission: “Food #03 is providing a community space where we partner with different groups / NGOS / individuals to share our space/kitchen and to bring about new menu and F&B concept.” The look was one of general electicism; the motive, communal engagement. In the latter at least, Food #03 takes a cue from Gordon Matta-Clark’s seminal art-food project slash restaurant, Food, which he instituted in downtown Manhattan in the early 1970s. (Read about it here.) It’s nice to see that his spirit lives on, even in such a far-flung corner.
I liked the Post-Museum a helluva lot better than the ASM.
I blogged about vegetables last week. Here’s the flip side.
SPH (that’s the Singapore Press Holdings) recently ran a series of rather er, visceral ads in the Straits Times promoting The Pitch – which is what they’re calling their new “reality contest” for ad agencies to “come up with their strategic and creative best.” And if the promotional campaign for the event itself is any yardstick, the creativity bar sure is being set pretty high. The series of ads (below) feature that mainstay of the dinner table, meat, in all its red, raw, bloody glory, ranging from gruesome slaughterhouse scenes to neatly laid out cuts of flesh all ready for the pan or pot. The creative team behind these carnivore-canny visuals, the local firm Wild Advertising & Marketing, explains their otherwise inscrutable choice thus: “Our business is already fraught with macabre language such as ‘deadlines’, ‘executions’ and having ads ‘butchered’ by clients. Which ad exec hasn’t felt like a lamb being led slaughter – walking into a client presentation being less than prepared.” (See here.)
The maternal unit, who’s spent a lifetime reading the ST and looking at their parade of otherwise uninspired ads, made a point of calling my attention to these novel, if rather grim, eye-catchers.
You can read more about The Pitch at SPH’s website.
As a subject of anthropological and semiotic interrogation, meat has aroused interest since the ’60s at least, when French thinker Claude Lévi-Strauss published his seminal (if a trifle far-fetched) piece, The Culinary Triangle, in the Partisan Review quarterly in 1966. He posited that different methods of cooking meat form a triangulated model, along the three connected pathways of which these various culinary modes could be located, and said to approach either “natural” or “cultural” processes. Umm, right …
The essay in its entirety is available on Google Books.
Even earlier though, French filmmaker Georges Franju chronicled first-hand the harrowing goings-on at a Parisian abattoir in his short documentary, Le Sang des Bêtes (Blood of the Beasts). That’s no misnomer, I assure you. One of the initial scenes shows a horse being knocked out by a captive bolt* before having its neck sliced open, bled – a seemingly endless river of dark blood swirling out onto the dirty cement floor – and then gutted, severed and carved up. As for the rest of it, you’ll have to watch it for yourself (see below), because that’s about as far as I got before my insides started feeling real funny. And I certainly haven’t tried getting any further since. Le Sang is quite enough to make a vegetarian out of anyone who isn’t a trigger-happy hunting enthusiast; a shoutout to my friend, AH, who long ago made the decision to give up meat, and hasn’t wavered, or at least not to my knowledge. These days the film attracts a cult audience primarily from having been made available on the Criterion Collection’s DVD of Franju’s 1960 horror classic, Les Yeux sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face), which is worth a look.
* And any talk of cattle guns is just pointless without at least a nod to the Coens’ No Country For Old Men (2007). I managed to sit through this one only because I’d already shelled out 10 USD for a ticket. Still one of the creepiest, stomach-churning-iest movies I’ve ever seen, bar none.
Le Sang des Bêtes, part 1 of 3. [Caution: very explicit, and not in a titillating way.]
Meanwhile, Franju’s documentary interests were transposed into the realm of deliciously nasty satire by fellow Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro in their wicked 1991 début, Delicatessen. It tells the tale of a charcuterie owner who, in a post-apocalyptic world afflicted by an acute shortage of food, begins to butcher the tenants in his building instead, serving up his neighbours bit by paper-wrapped bit over the counter. The concern for how the human race treats its animalian fellows seems to have been overtaken by cannibalistic complexes, a trend that has persisted in the last two decades. While the specter of cannibalism has been explored in film since the notorious D-grade gore-fest, Blood Feast, appeared in 1963, and in the sci-fi dystopia flick Soylent Green (1973) – not to mention providing a gimmicky edge to The Silence of the Lambs and its sequel – movies like Deli and the Dutch black comedy The Green Butchers leave the horror and sci-fi genres behind to take a droll jibe at our most cherished dietary practices. TGB stars the ever Skeletor-ish Mads Mikkelsen (you can practically see the guy’s skull beneath his skin), who has lots of diabolical fun with meathooks and grinders and marinades, becoming a hit among the grocery-shopping housewives of his tiny town for those oh-so-tasty “Chickadees.” Even more than Jeunet and Caro’s work, TGB lifts the food film to surreal heights as a tongue-in-cheek <lol> investigation of the implications of meat-eating.
Chinese performance artist Zhu Yu shifted the terms of the debate when, as part of a piece simply dubbed Eating People, he staged a series of photographs of himself preparing and consuming what looked to be a human foetus (below). While doubts about the authenticity of his er, meal are rife, Zhu himself is on record as stating: ““Our subconscious tells us that eating babies is not right. But it is not prohibited. No religion forbids cannibalism. Nor can I find any law which prevents us from eating people. So I took advantage of the space between morality and the law and based my work on it.” The piece stirred further controversy when it was shown on BBC’s Channel 4 as part of a program on contemporary Chinese art, Beijing Swings.
What has been termed BioArt deals with living matter and its study, including tissue culture, bioengineering processes, laboratory praxis, and, of course, a whole range of organic substances like meat, animal parts and bodily fluids, representing a new paradigm, beyond the performative, for corporeal engagement in art. Some of it is highly cerebral, literally operating at the interstice between art and lab science, like the SymbioticA collective; others tend toward the deliberately shocking and provocative. The work of female Indian artists Anita Dube and Shilpa Gupta, for instance, were featured at a recent SAM show on contemporary Asian art. Dube’s Silence (Blood Wedding) co-opts actual human bones as part of a series of ornate, florid sculptures, where these remains are transformed through a covering of rich red velvet and fussy beadwork into particularly beguiling, macabre memento mori-s. Gupta, on the other hand, while not actually utilizing biological material, created numerous bottles of simulated blood to stock a grisly pharmacy. Blame (2003) stands as a critique of communal violence in India, as well as global bloodshed such as the war on terror, confronting the viewer with the horrific consequences of these hostilities cloaked in the guise of the everyday, rendering it all the more startling and affective. (Though not without certain misgivings, at least on my part.) Other Asian artists engaged in body art as shock tactics include the infamous Chinese duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, whose Body Link and Human Oil utilized actual human foetuses as part of their attempt to highlight the brutality of modern urban life. The artists’ site clearly notes that the materials for Body Link were a “baby cadaver (medical specimen), plastic tubing, needles, and 200 cc of blood”, and Human Oil consisted of “liquefied human fat, one male infant cadaver.” So scandalous, in fact, were the shenanigans of artists like Zhu, Sun and Peng that in 2001 the Chinese authorities banned exhibitions “involving torture, animal abuse, corpses, and overt violence and sexuality”, and any “gallery or alternative space planning to mount a show during the run of the 2002 Shanghai Biennale was required to vet its contents with censors.” (See Richard Vine’s New China, New Art [Prestel USA, 2008], p. 104-5.)
Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Body Link (2000). Images from sunyuanpengu.com.
Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Human Oil (2000). Image from sunyuanpengyu.com.
As a sort of subcategory of BioArt, the visual culture of meat and meat-related products has of late been attracting the attention of artists interested in issues like feminism, animal rights, and foodways. Here’s a wonderful snippet from a review of Meat After Meat Joy, an exhibition which showed at the Mahmood Daneyal Gallery in NYC in 2008, which I think serves well as an articulation of the politics and connotations of representing meat:
I sing the song of meat, of its joys and discontents. For text demanded is now text made manifest. For meat is not only murder but also medium. Not merely the flesh, bone and sinew of corporeal existence but also an aesthetic construct replete with its peculiar and innate ontology. Not just tissue but also a symbolic projection of the impolite body into the rarefied space of the contemporary art world ……
Meat is food. Meat is death. Meat is torture. Meat is production. Meat is raw, although it can be cooked. Meat is dissection, substratum, structure. Meat is the bridge between human and animal, a reminder of where we come from, of our shared morphology, and of our place in the food chain. But meat is, above all, metaphor. It drips with larger aesthetic and political implications. It is laced with the gristle of artistic effort, striated by the tendons of semiotic theory and the ligaments of art school curriculum, greased with the lard of unctuous careerism, inflamed in the rotisserie of the contemporary art market, braised on the skillet of critical acclaim or indifference, its physical wholeness challenged by entropy, time and the maggots of eventual dissolution. It is a pungent medium, and should this not be immediately apparent, just give it a day or two without refrigeration.
(Read the full review at post.thing.net.)
Some of the pieces included in the show were the well-known video work My New York (2002) by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, who wore a meat suit down the streets of the city, having evinced a longstanding concern with the human body and its fleshly constituent, as well as the American Betty Hirst, who has incorporated the motif of meat across a broad spectrum of iconographies.
Stills from Zhang Huan’s My New York (2002). Images from Style Tease.
American Flag, Betty Hirst. Image from a review at Eat Me Daily.
Hommage a Meret Oppenheim, Betty Hirst. Image from a review at Eat Me Daily.
Elsewhere, photographer-artist Dominic Episcopo had a one-man show at the Bambi Gallery in Philadelphia, entitled Meat America. A brief notice at The Urban Grocer remarks: “Through this work, Episcopo intended to celebrate his own unabashed love for meat and “the American appetite for decadent and iconoclastic deliciousness.” And for the artist, delicious it was – word on the street says Episcopo and his wife ate all the meat he photographed. Now that’s dedication.”
All images below from The Coolist.
… It’s the end of the post. There isn’t going to be any mention of Her Gaga-ness.
In Act I, Scene 5, of Antony and Cleopatra, the Egyptian Queen, writhing in the throes of separation anxiety, is heard bemoaning her naughty past with Julius Caesar:
My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.
These days one doesn’t have to depopulate the Nile Delta just to dispatch a missive, or for the want of some greens. However, if you live in Singapore, as I do, you might have to put up with a rather limited variety of salads, the only native – and by that I mean SE Asian – versions that come to mind being Malay rojak, Indonesian gado-gado, or Thai som tam. Or the little sad-looking bowls of lettuce with freeze-dried carrot slivers and a tomato quarter or two that you get at ‘family restaurant’ chains like Pasta Mania, served with a side of dressing-in-a-packet …
Anything else can be kinda hard to find hereabouts.
Thankfully, with a slew of salad bars having sprung up of late, the situation seems to be improving. The Salad Shop at UOB Plaza on Boat Quay mixes up a mean, green, fibre-rich machine – or any way you want yours done, really. (Props to BX, who first introduced me to the place.)
So this is how it works: everything they have available is printed on layered slips of carbonless copy paper, where you check off little boxes to indicate what you want in your bowl (or takeaway container), before you hand it in at the bar and head off to the cashier’s with a copy of your order to pay up. Ingredients are categorized into main feeds, supplementary feeds and prime feeds. The first are your basics, the second the slightly pricier stuff, and the last, meats and cold cuts. Which is pertinent for your choice of salad size: rabbit (8 SGD), which includes six main feeds; zebra (10), six mains and two supplementals; and elephant (12), which is basically the zebra + a prime.
Before that though, there are six bases to choose from: mixed lettuce; deli leaves; baby spinach; extra base; potato; and cous cous. (Pick one.) Then the main feeds, of which TSS offers an absolute plethora. You have the standards like carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, beans and sweet corn, along with more unusual selections like pickled seaweed, jalapenos (?!), brown rice and almond flakes. Best of all, they also have egg white ! – which is basically a hard-boiled egg, cubed, without the yolk. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I don’t see this around much, either here or in the U.S. Major brownie points, especially from yolk-haters like myself. The supplementals are fancier: apricots, dried berries, avocado, roasted veggies etc, plus a smattering of cheeses (Swiss, blue, parmesan). The meats include chicken tikka, crayfish, prawns, smoked duck, salmon, tuna, parma ham, roast beef, honey baked ham, roast chicken and turkey.
Finally, you decide on your dressing, which, as common sense would suggest, really makes or breaks a salad. So crucial is this concluding step that I’m going to list all the options. TSS offers 23 different dressings, a goodish number of which are vinaigrettes: extra virgin olive oil; balsamic vinaigrette; red wine vinaigrette; dill vinaigrette <shudder>; sundried tomato; pesto vinaigrette; lemon vinaigrette; citrus (?); sweet Thai chilli; chilli lime; mint yoghurt; honey mustard; Oriental; Thai; Caesar; Ranch; Thousand Island; lemon juice; avocado; Blue Cheese; white wine vinaigrette; French; Italian.
TSS also does soup, but I haven’t tried those – an oversight that will be corrected the next time round.
When I was there late on a Thursday afternoon – a nutritional prelude to the ArtScience Museum, more on which in a later post – I settled on this particular er, elephantine combo: on a bed of lettuce leaves, carrots, corn, roasted pumpkin, raisins, olives and egg white, along with grilled zucchini and bacon bits (the supplementals), and parma ham, all tossed in some honey mustard. Which was good, don’t get me wrong, except for two major distractions.
1. Their fault: Iceberg lettuce does NOT work as a salad base. In NYC at least I was used to delis and supermarkets utilizing crunchy romaine stems instead, which tend to maintain their crispness better under the onslaught of the dressing. Iceberg leaves, not so much – they get soggy and wilt. Also, the anemic colour doesn’t look quite as good in a salad mix, plain and simple.
2. My fault: the Parma ham was a bad idea. The briny taste and slimy texture of parma sorta gets lost in a dressed salad, really just ending up as large, chewy tongues of cold meat in your mouth that overpowers the light, chill briskness of the veggies. If you’re the kind who enjoys some yang in all that yin though, like I am, a julienne of honey baked ham works just fine.
Otherwise a nice break from the constant greasy sinfulness of local cuisine.
The Salad Shop
80 Raffles Place, #01-20 UOB Plaza 2, Singapore 048624.
A late Sunday dinner with the maternal unit at the local coffee shop provoked a rather .. interesting episode.
I was at the Indian food store, and decided to ask for some idlis which I saw advertised in fluorescent-lit visuals. If you haven’t had them, they’re delicious. Idlis are a type of South Indian pastry made from rice and lentils, and steamed to moist, spongy, fluffy perfection, after which they’re all ready for a go with curry or some other condiment. Best things ever. In Singapore they’re mostly a breakfast and/or lunch item, a fact which conveniently slipped my mind when I ordered some that evening.
Scrumptious image of idlis from Mahanandi.
The response? Laughter. “No lah brudder, this hour don’t have lah.”
“Your face looks like idli !”
Er, okayy. A rather random compliment, if one wants to take it that way. Or a deviously backhanded jibe. In any case, it certainly called to mind some pretty bizarre images …
… In the end, I settled for two pratas. Which were served up with sides of chicken and veggie curry (good), and sambal belacan (weird). Tasty too, though.
(From Food and Feasting in Art [Guide to Imagery series], Silvia Malaguzzi, pp. 177-80.)
Still Life with Lobsters (1822), Eugène Delacroix. In the collection of the Louvre.
In antiquity, crustaceans were a rare luxury food, and they were also enjoyed at medieval and Renaissance tables. Platina stresses that crustaceans are a tasty but heavy food, and he suggests lightening them by soaking in water and vinegar. They were forbidden by Jewish dietary rules, which allowed only fish with fins and scales, but they do not seem to have particularly worried Christians, who have no rules forbidding their consumption. In medieval exegetical writings, both lobsters and crabs are symbols of the Resurrection. This may derive from an observation passed on by Pliny, that both lobsters and crabs cast off their old shells in the spring and acquire new ones. The Resurrection symbolism is also attributed to the crab by Picinelli. In medieval exegesis, the lobster also represents conversion from paganism, heretics, and flatterers, but also preachers who reach heights of sublime contemplation and then return to virtuous activity, just as crustaceans rise to the surface of the sea only to sink down once again. In the symbolic language of actions, both the crab and crayfish represent instability and inconstancy because of their characteristic walk, with apparently random backward and forward movements. For the same reason, they were thought to represent sin, or even the devil, who was thought to walk backwards.
Sources: Pliny, Naturalis historia 9.95; Rabanus Maurus, PL 112 col. 988; Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetitudine (1474) book 10, chap. 363; Filippo Picinelli, Mundus Symbolicus (1687) book 6, chaps 18 and 20.
Meaning: Resurrection, inconstancy
Iconography: Crustaceans appear fairly frequently in 17th- and 18th-century Flemish still lifes and genre scenes. They also sometimes appear as delicacies in allegories of the sense of taste.
Still Life with Nautilus Cup and Lobster (1634), Jan Davidsz. de Heem. In the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
[Notes on the painting]
It seems likely that the various foods brought together in this still life are intended to convey a spiritual message concerning the Resurrection and redemption from Original Sin.
The apple symbolizes Original Sin.
Grapes, as the source of wine, are used to convey the Passion of Christ for the redemption of humanity.
The lobster is a symbol of the Resurrection because it molts its shell every year, completely renewing its appearance.
Still Life with Lobster and Crab (1643), Pieter Claesz. In the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
[Notes on the painting]
The manly beer glass and the feminine pewter pot seem to suggest that this painting contains a message for a man and a woman.
The watch invites the viewer to remember the ceaseless workings of time, which devours all. In this context, it suggests that we should read all the foods represented as symbolic.
The lobster and crab are not simply tasty foods but also symbols of the Resurrection. They remind us that taking due care of the spirit will gain us entry to the realm of divine beatitude.
Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of Saint Adrian at Haarlem (1627), Frans Hals. In the collection of the Frans Hal Museum, Haarlem.
[Notes on the painting]
The man holds his glass upside down to show that he wants it to be refilled, almost as though he were trying to involve the spectator in the painting.
Crab is the main dish at the officers’ banquet. Crustaceans have been considered a luxury dish ever since antiquity.