In the age before the Internet I was a first year student of History of Art at Glasgow University. The department, in its infinite wisdom, decided to teach all the first year sudents the entire history of art from pre-historic times to the early 20th century, in between we managed to actually learn something and I studied Velazquez.
I was fascinated by the austerity of the Hasburg royal family and the portraits of other Spanish nobility, the women in mourning dressed as nuns, the stark colours, the severity of it all. I imagined them all unsmiling, constantly in prayer clutching to rosaries and supersitions.
In fact they were all subject to the usual vageries of lust, gluttony, deceit and lies. The whole display of severity and ultra-Catholicism was very often a smoke screen for having a Jewish or Moorish bloodline and a very strong desire to keep the Inquisition from investigating too much. Velaquez himself, seen above in a self-portrait as part of Las Meninas, far from being the great embodiment of the Order of Saint James, had several illegitimate children and at one point was under suspicion of murder.
On Friday 2nd November, as part of the National Gallery Friday Night Socials I will be taking all guests on a short tour of 17th Spain through its paintings and its food, showing you how the food itself, from convents to Royalty, exposed the untruths of the painting conventions.
Tio Pepe Martini
3 Cocidos (lentil stew, chickpea and cod stew and white bean and smoked morcilla stew)
Sopa Real (Royal soup – consumme with mini meatballs and aromatic herbs)
Escabeche de perdiz (partridge with a vinegar and vegetable sauce)
Panellets, huesos de santo, petos de monja (little breads, saints bones, nun’s farts) – please note these are names of sweets and not literally what you will be eating. .
Glass of Nectar, a Pedro Jimenez from Gonzalez Byass