Eating and drinking can be aesthetic experiences as well as sensory ones. The Hungry Eye takes readers from antiquity to the Renaissance to explore the central role of food and drink in literature, art, philosophy, religion, and statecraft.
In this beautifully illustrated book, Leonard Barkan provides an illuminating meditation on how culture finds expression in what we eat and drink. Plato’s Symposium is a timeless philosophical text, one that also describes a drinking party. Salome performed her dance at a banquet where the head of John the Baptist was presented on a platter. Barkan looks at ancient mosaics, Dutch still life, and Venetian Last Suppers. He describes how ancient Rome was a paradise of culinary obsessives, and explains what it meant for the Israelites to dine on manna. He discusses the surprising relationship between Renaissance perspective and dinner parties, and sheds new light on the moment when the risen Christ appears to his disciples hungry for a piece of broiled fish. Readers will browse the pages of the Deipnosophistae—an ancient Greek work in sixteen volumes about a single meal, complete with menus—and gain epicurean insights into such figures as Rabelais and Shakespeare, Leonardo and Vermeer.
A book for anyone who relishes the pleasures of the table, The Hungry Eye is an erudite and uniquely personal look at all the glorious ways that food and drink have transfigured Western arts and high culture.
"The Hungry Eye is a food-obsessed frolic through the artwork, writing, and philosophy of hundreds of years of Western history. . . . From the fruits that adorn Renaissance portraits of the Madonna and Child to the platter that carries St. John the Baptist’s head, Barkan parses the past with gusto."—Hyperallergic, Lauren Moya Ford
"A foundational text of Food Studies. . . . This book does for food in art and literature what Sidney Mintz did for food and global politics in Sweetness and Power. It should be right up there with Mintz’s book as a foundational text of Food Studies. . . . Everyone interested in Food Studies as a discipline, food in art, and anything having to do with food and culture will want to read this book—for its ideas, its gorgeousness, and for sheer pleasure."—Marion Nestle, Food Politics
"It's unusual to have a culinary history that is also highly recommended for arts holdings; but The Hungry Eye is a feast of mind and eye that holds much food for thought for scholarly audiences interested in a different approach to food and drink's importance in human affairs."—Donovan’s Literary Services
"Leonard Barkan has written a terrific book that ranges far more widely than one might expect, is impressively learned, and yet is remarkably accessible and often entertaining. . . . One closes the book convinced of the centrality of food and drink in European culture. This is a fine addition to the literature on the history of food that adds depth to the largely narrative histories that have preceded it."—Rod Phillips, The World of Fine Wine
"Sumptuous, eminently absorbing, delectably erudite and cornucopian. . . . [The Hungry Eye] is a beautifully personal, resonantly learned, beguilingly written chronicle of how food, throughout the centuries, has brought the via contemplativa and the via activa together. . . . A feast for the eyes and for the mind.
"—Mika Provata-Carlone, Bookanista
"In a beautifully written and illustrated book, [Barkan] has explored how what is eaten and imbibed —literally and figuratively –portray, shape and explain how Western culture from Rome through the Renaissance. . . . The result is a delicious rich broth filled with depth and nuance that will satisfy the learned reader and urge her or him to ask for more."—Richard Zimmer, Food Anthropology
“A totally extraordinary convivium in magnificence, like a high feast of historical art superintelligence, philosophical disquisition, and supreme wit, all laid out with an abundance of gobsmacking visible stuff from Pompeii to the High Renaissance. Thingness gets to meaning, visual gets to verbal, dinner gets to the Last Supper, and we leave feeling we’d like more.”—Mary Ann Caws, author of Creative Gatherings: Meeting Places of Modernism
"From the table talk of ancient Rome to the painted banquets of Renaissance Italy, Barkan is a brilliant, sensual guide to the pleasures of seeing food and tasting art."—Emily Gowers, author of The Loaded Table: Representations of Food in Roman Literature
"The Hungry Eye is at once a jeu d’esprit but also a profound and scholarly meditation on its topic. An impressive achievement."—Larry Silver, author of Marketing Maximilian: The Visual Ideology of a Holy Roman Emperor