The Edible Monument considers the elaborate architecture, sculpture, and floats designed for court and civic celebrations in early modern Europe, including popular festivals such as Carnival and the Italian Cuccagna. Like illuminations and fireworks, ephemeral artworks made of food were not well documented and were difficult to describe because they were perishable and thus quickly consumed or destroyed. In times before photography and cookbooks, there were neither literary models nor iconography for how food and its preparation should be explained or depicted. Drawing on books, prints, and scrolls that document festival arts, elaborate banquets, and street feasts, the essays in this volume examine the mythic themes and personas employed to honor and celebrate rulers; the methods, materials, and wares used to prepare, depict, and serve food; and how foods such as sugar were transformed to express political goals or accomplishments. Although made for consumption, food could also be a work of art, both a special attraction and an expression of power.
Formal occasions and spontaneous celebrations drew communities together, while special foods and seasonal menus revived ancient legends, evoking memories and recalling shared histories, values, and tastes. This book is published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Getty Research Center from October 13, 2015, to March 23, 2016.