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Hot Chocolate Paintings for a Cozy Evening

Drawing of a London coffee-and-chocolate house, c. 1690–1700, The British Museum, London.

Food

Hot Chocolate Paintings for a Cozy Evening

Although December has been extremely warm this year I still crave a good old hot chocolate and a cozy evening under the blankets.

The Gift for Strangers

Salvador Dalí, Casanova- Cup of Chocolate, 1967, private collection.

Chocolate means ‘Food of the Gods’ and although all social classes of ancient Mayan people could drink it, it was mostly reserved solely for the priests and the elite of their society. Therefore, when Columbus arrived in 1502 on Guanaja island on his fourth voyage he was offered cocoa (cacao) beans, a gift worthy of the strangers coming from beyond the horizon.

Fashion for the Kings

Giuseppe Bonito, Infanta Maria Josefa of Spain, 1759, Galeria Caylus, Madrid, Spain.

Columbus’ contemporaries were rather wary of the bitter taste of cocoa. With time, Europeans learned to dissolve sugar and vanilla into their hot chocolate making the drink fashionable for aristocratic families, though the Spanish kept it secret for a while from the rest of Europe. Yet, when something becomes popular it is bound to be documented; hot chocolate showed up in painting for the first time in the 17th century. Here we can see Infanta Maria Josefa of Spain, daughter of the Spanish King Charles III, portrayed with her two favorite things: her puppy, and a cup of hot chocolate.

Good Morning Sweetie

Pietro Longhi, Morning Chocolate, mid-18th C, Ca’ Rezzonico (Museo del Settecento), Venice, Italy.

The powerful and energetic drink, hot chocolate quickly became a typical breakfast of aristocrats. Accompanied by a glass of water and a sweet pastry, it provided a positive boost for a tiring day of socializing and networking.

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Breakfast, 1754, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

Hot Chocolate Bath?

Anonymous, Lady with Hot Chocolate in a Bath, 18th C. Source: https://www.pitturaomnia.com/pitturaomnia_000131.htm.

The morning chocolate routine began in bed, as Pietro Longhi‘s portrayal of Venetian high society shows, yet this anonymous work proves that one could drink chocolate anywhere, even in a bath. What can be more indulgent than that?!

From Painting to Advertising

Jean-Etienne Liotard, A Lady Pouring Chocolate or A Dutch Girl at Breakfast,
c. 1744, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Jean-Etienne Liotard, a Swiss painter, created an entire series dedicated to ladies drinking or serving hot chocolate. For example the painting below, showing a maid serving a cup of hot chocolate and a glass of water, was considered a masterpiece by Liotard’s contemporaries and it inspired many copyists to make replicas. Later, when hot chocolate became even more popular, the image inspired advertisements on Droste’s (a Dutch chocolate manufacturer) cocoa tins.

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Chocolate Girl, 1754, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresde, Germany.
Jan Misset, Drostess Cacao, 1904, source: Wikimedia.

Fashion for the Fashionable

Raimundo Madrazo, Hot Chocolate, mid-19th C, private collection.

With the passage of time and the rise of trade, chocolate production sped up and further spread across Europe. Not only did the higher classes drink it but the bourgeoisie could afford it as well.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Cup of Chocolate, 1878, private collection.

Food for the Soldiers

Marcel Duchamp, Chocolate Grinder, 1904, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, US.

The Industrial Revolution even further industrialized the production of chocolate. As a result, during WWI food rations for soldiers contained chocolate bars for breakfast. Thus history came full circle: from the breakfast of kings, to the breakfast of soldiers; from food of the gods, to food of the warriors.

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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