In The Elementary Structures of Kinship, French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss noted that we often reserve rich foods for celebrations: “These are some of the delicacies which one would not buy and consume alone without a vague feeling of guilt.” And guilty we would feel if we were to celebrate the passing of another year without sharing some of the morsels found in the Artstor Digital Library.
The earliest example of celebrations we’re sharing today is a Greek mosaic from the 2nd Century CE of the floor after a feast—we see fish bones, lobster legs, a chicken foot, and other party detritus. Oddly, there are no empty carafes or glasses, which might mean the Greeks were more cautious with their wine than their dishes (Italian and other European Art (Scala Archives)).
And what’s a party without music? Peter Brueghel the Elder’s “Peasant’s Dance” (1568) (Art, Archaeology and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives)) shows children and adults looking oddly serious as they dance to the bagpipe, while the men in Max Weber’s “Hasidic Dance” (1940) express unbridled joy in a traditional dance (Carnegie Arts of the United States).
After dancing comes time to relax, as we see the guests doing at emperor Humayun’s Garden Party (1550-1555), attributed to Mir Sayyid Ali (Art, Archaeology and Architecture (Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives)). Unfortunately not all visitors understand moderation, such as Giovanni Domenico Ferretti’s “Harlequin as Glutton” (18th century) (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art); his companions look positively mortified (be sure to zoom in on the image in the Digital Library to see the priceless expression on the baby on the lower left).
The clown in the Sells Floto Circus print (1923) (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: Circus Collection) is more successful in leading his guests in cheerful celebration—except for the poor squirrel getting doused with hot coffee.
The Artstor staff wishes you magnificent feasts and a happy New Year!