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Keep Eating and Never Regret: Fat Thursday 2019

Hieronymus Bosch or follower, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1505-1510, Museo del Prado

Food

Keep Eating and Never Regret: Fat Thursday 2019

Doughnuts, doughnuts… who wouldn’t be tempted by one freshly out of the bakery, covered in sweet coating and with a warm, creamy filling… Aaaaah…
People dieting- no talk of calories or fats, you’re forbidden entry to today’s Fat Thursday post because today is all about EXCESS and GLUTTONY.

I would even eat a spoon if I only could

Flemish School, An allegory of gluttony, 16th Century, private collection, fat thursday

Flemish School, An allegory of gluttony, 16th Century, private collection

Gluttony, i.e. excessive indulgence in food and drink, is one of the seven deadly sins which good observant Christians should avoid committing. It’s a recurring subject in art history and worth looking at, especially that it’s pretty clear that humanity hasn’t changed at all and still enjoys overeating.

Swollen bellies

Gustav Klimt, Central narrow wall (detail): Unchastity, Lust and Gluttony, 1902, Secession Building, Vienna, fat thursday

Gustav Klimt, Central narrow wall (detail): Unchastity, Lust and Gluttony, 1902, Secession Building, Vienna

It’s rather rare to personify Gluttony as a woman. Usually, as you will see in this collection, it was men who were responsible for overdrinking and overeating (probably because poor women were too tired to eat after hours of cooking). Yet Klimt had to be integral to his stylistic choice of painting women as personifications of various vices and virtues in his Beethoven frieze, hence he painted this middle-aged woman with a swollen belly and big breasts looking at the young ones as if they were something to eat.

Riding on barrels and other things you’d want to forget after a night out

Hieronymus Bosch, Allegory of Gluttony and Lust, c.1500, Yale University Art Gallery (Yale University), New Haven, CT, US, fat thursday

Hieronymus Bosch, Allegory of Gluttony and Lust, c.1500, Yale University Art Gallery (Yale University), New Haven, CT, US

Gluttony and lust were the two sins that Hieronymus Bosch regarded as the most disgusting. This is how he combined them here in one panel. In the top left, we can see a pretty fat man riding a barrel in some kind of pond and playing the trumpet. To me, he seems pretty drunk, just check out his red cheeks. People around the barrel seem to be trying to squeeze out the magic drink out of it. Below, another drunk man has decided to have a swim while balancing a plate of meat on his head (don’t try it, what a waste of food, better to eat it). While these were the scenes condemning gluttony, in a hut we see the allegory of Lust: there is a couple about to devote to lascivious acts…

A vicious circle

Hieronymus Bosch or follower, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1500-1525, Museo del Prado, fat thursday

Hieronymus Bosch or follower, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1505-1510, Museo del Prado

This Gluttony is one of seven parts of Deadly Sins, identified by an inscription, which together form the innermost circle of Bosch’s religious panel which was created to convey moral teaching through depicting people from different social classes in everyday situations. The scenes undoubtedly show Bosch as a pioneer in genre painting, which was soon to become important.

When your mouth becomes a vacuum cleaner

Attributed to Albrecht Dürer, from Sebastian Brant's book Stultifera navis (Ship of Fools), 1498, Library of the University of Houston, fat thursday

Attributed to Albrecht Dürer, from Sebastian Brant’s book Stultifera navis (Ship of Fools), 1498, Library of the University of Houston

Well, this print was attributed to Albrecht Dürer but I doubt it highly. Unless he did it when he was in the same condition as the protagonists: in a pretty cheerful mood. It looks like a carnival party (I love their hats). The guy on the left intrigues me the most: is he devouring an entire goose? And why does the mouth of a guy holding the ewer looks like a vacuum cleaner pipe????!!!!

Defeated by food

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Land of Cockaigne, 1567, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, fat thursday

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Land of Cockaigne, 1567, Alte Pinakothek, Munich

In the Middle Ages, Cockaigne was a mythical land of happiness and plenty, where restrictions of society didn’t oblige anyone, sexual liberty was open and for everyone and there was enough food at hand (apparently skies rained cheeses… I wouldn’t mind, I love cheese.) But Brueghel depicted it scornfully, using the well-known allegory he laughed at and criticized sloth and gluttony. We see a soldier, a peasant, and a clerk, each of them with their attributes, lying exhausted after a feast in the open-air. The unfinished egg runs between them, and so does the pig. In the right upper corner, we see a man with a spoon trying to climb to reach Cockaigne, while the soldier on the left awaits with an open mouth his share of food. If you look closely you’ll see that the fence in the centre of the painting is made of cheese!!!! What a life!

Drinking with the devil

Jacques de l'Ange, Glutton, ca. 1642, Milwaukee Art Museum, fat thursday

Jacques de l’Ange, Glutton, ca. 1642, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI

The moral message of the image (which most probably is l’Ange’s self-portrait) is clear: check out the figure holding the lighted torch and enjoying the view of the young (and quite handsome, ekhm) man indulging in drink- it is nobody else but a horned devil!!! Keep away boy or it will end badly! The flickering flame makes the atmosphere strictly Caravaggesque: the play of light and shadow emphasizes the drama of the situation.

Like master, like dog

Georg Emanuel Opiz, Der Völler, 1804. private collection, fat thursday

Georg Emanuel Opiz, Der Völler, 1804, private collection

To finish off with style, I’m showing you this aristocratic scene. I just love how the pet dog of the fat man defends his bones and meat. This is called dedication.

If you’re still hungry and feeling like a feast, have a read Come Dine With Art History: See What It Has Cooked For You

Or if you feel more like you need a sweet cherry on top of your muffin, read Click Here If You’re Craving Something Sweet… or just eat another doughnut!

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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