Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats



Wine, Women and Song

A medieval pub-crawl



The favourite I have lies in an inn cellar.

Clad in a wooden coat, he's known as Muscadella.

Me he's made drunk through the nights

And jolly all day.

God's on his side, there's no doubt of his sway.

Reviving my blood, he grants strength for the jape.

May God only keep thee, thou juice of the grape.

After Antonio Scandello, The Favourite I Have, before 1580


Adriaen Brouwer
In the Tavern

The sixteenth century was the age of feasting and drinking. On a sophisticated plane, Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam exchanged their witty writings at banquets. In German-speaking territories, the Reformer Martin Luther brought conviviality down to earth. Of course his ninety-five theses are remembered, but so is his "Table Talk" in which the voluble glutton explained his theology in a welter of sausages, sauerkraut and graphic language. One wonders whether his table companions were always able to follow his train of thought. More than likely not.

Contemporary sources note that many princes became drunk every day. They may be pardoned for their excessive drinking when one remembers that it took a lot of strong drink to wash down the vast quantities of roast meat, nutmeats and gingerbread that banqueters consumed in those days. The nobles were not the only ones to indulge in such culinary excesses. Tradesmen and craftsmen also sat down to festive tables groaning under the weight of the fare. To drink beer, wine and more potent potations, men preferred to meet at taverns, most of which also offered beds for the night. The Dutch scholar and wit Erasmus of Rotterdam had quite a bit to say about what went on at an inn where he was staying: "The heated public room is open to all guests. Here one is combing his hair and another polishing his shoes or boots. It is part of good hospitality to ensure that everyone is soaked with sweat. Finally wine of considerable acidity is brought in. One is amazed at the shouting and din which arise when heads are hot with drink. Buffoons and jesters often mingle in the tumult and the delight those present have in them is unbelievable. They make so much noise with their songs, babble and shouting, their leaping and brawls that the walls threaten to collapse."

The greatest tavern roisterer among painters was probably Adriaen Brouwer. A brilliant raconteur, a gifted impromptu poet and a witty conversationalist, the painter had access to the literary and affluent mercantile circles of Antwerp. However, the "genius of low-life" felt much more at home in taverns because he loved "drinking and licence" as his biographers tell us. They add that Brouwer "dawdled over painting but was quick at devouring his victuals". The genre scenes he painted, such as Peasants Brawling in a Tavern, probably represent firsthand experience. Although he was acclaimed and well paid for his work as a genre painter during his lifetime, Brouwer's passion for tavern life proved his undoing. As the story goes, Rubens, who admired the Flemish painter's work and even owned seventeen of his paintings, once took him in but soon threw him out again because he could not stand his bawdy ways. Brouwer, an "Adonis in rags" died at the age of thirty-three, possibly of the plague which he contracted in a tavern.

Adriaen Brouwer
Peasants Brawling in a Tavern


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