Indulgent Food in Paintings and on Instagram

indulgent food

In the Medieval times just like now on Instagram, pictures of indulgent food were a sign of status.

Researchers looked out for indulgent food in pictures of more than 500 years old and found that bread and meat were highly appreciated even then.

The conclusion is that the abundant meals with unhealthy and indulgent food are not something induced by our modern times. Humans have a long history of food indulgences, including sausages, bread, or salt, all food that we know now are not entirely safe for our body.

The study involved the analysis of 750 food paintings from the last five centuries, out of which 140 were portraying family meals, and it was financed by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

The 36 paintings from Renaissance showed bread on the table in 86%. The meat was present in 61% of the cases, and only 22% had any vegetables included in the meal.

Most of the painters preferred less common foods, like artichokes, lemons, or lobsters, which were hard to find at that time in history. The authors say that the trend shows the preference for foods that are indulgent, and the paintings express an aspiration or have the sole purpose of being aesthetically pleasant.

“Our love affair with visually appealing, decadent, or status foods is nothing new,” “It was already well-established 500 years ago,” said co-author Andrew Weislogel, Ph.D., Curator of Earlier European American Art.

Decadent and expensive meals are not an invention of this century. Displaying indulgent food as a way to show status existed long before our times, when people share food photos on the social media.

While the items exhibited in the paintings were mostly exotic fruits and lobsters, the standard meal at that time consisted of bread and chicken.

As for the Instagram users, they also prefer to show off pictures taken in expensive restaurants, exotic places, or indulgent food resulted from laborious cooking and great skill.

The modern food exhibitionists want to create an image of them that shows how much money they have to spare, how adventurous and worldly they are. The photos are rarely about food, but they want to convey a message related to their status.

In the historical paintings, the preferred foods were the ones difficult to found. For example, olives do not show at all in the Italian paintings, but they are preferred in other countries were they had to be imported and therefore, were more valuable.

As time went by, the food pictures started to reflect what people did eat. One explanation is that the industrialization era brought more ways to display a social status.

The experts say that in our modern times, people are showing pictures of food to create an image of how exciting their lives are. On a month to month basis, very few individuals get to do something really extraordinary. Exotic and complicated food can replace other types of status displays.

Image Source: Wikipedia