Food and the concept of truth. The rhetoric of food representations in the early modern Low Countries

Start - End 
2015 - 2022 (ongoing)
Department of Art, music and theatre sciences
Other institution(s) 
Università di Verona
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 
Additional tags 
Culinary history
Early modern art
Low Countries



In a majority of food studies, visual arts are used as documentary evidence for the analysis of culinary history. Although these valuable studies show a lot of scientific interest in the representation of comestibles, within the scope of these fast-developing research topics, a comparative art historical approach of these depictions in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Low Countries is rare. Since it is particularly in this region and during this period that the attentiveness for culinary details reached a climax, we would like to examine if the reason for this can be found in the intrinsic art historical meaning of these representations.

Therefore, this research aims to understand the reason, the structure and the meaning of culinary motives on early modern Netherlandish art. We argue that the observation and representation of comestibles coexisted not only with contemporary developments in cookery books, but also corresponded with ongoing dietary and philosophical debates, which intersected with theories on art and knowledge. Especially the art historical discussions on the functions and use of images can be related to a fascination for the representation of culinary topoi. As a result of a subtle play with culinary motives, these works generated cognitive processes and end up becoming theories of visuality and of representation. This interdisciplinary study focusses on an understudied aspect of early modern Netherlandish art and blends recent scientific food studies with an art historical approach and methodology.




Phd Student(s)


Bernard Aikema