Banquets

An exhibition on an everyday activity.

Museo de Huesca

Museo de Huesca

Vessel of Verdvllvs (c. 50 - 100) by Gaivs Valerivs VerdvllvsMuseo de Huesca

The exhibition on Banquets, as seen through the collections of the Museum of Huesca, was held for International Museum Day in 2014 on the theme of Museum Collections Make Connections.

The narrative is kept alive and relevant so that we may understand the archaeological and fine art collections that are the museum's lifeblood.

It reflects human needs and this centuries-long ritual within a social, everyday, and religious context.

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (c. 1500) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

Banquets Throughout History

The origins of the banquet can be traced back to ancient times, although the earliest ones had very little in common with today's understanding of what a banquet is. Six thousand years ago, humans lived, slept, cooked, and kept some of their tools in caves.

Little Bottle (B.C. 4400 - B.C. 4100) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

Prehistoric Times

The concept of belonging to a group appeared in the Paleolithic era. Gathering around a table and sitting near a cozy fire were the beginnings of successful survival strategies against the outside world.

This practice gradually became a ritual, with groups of people discussing the human and religious topics that affected them. Remains found in shelters and caves in the province of Huelva, now in the museum, are evidence of this.

Vessel (B.C. 1100 - B.C. 1000) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

The development of agriculture and livestock farming in the Neolithic period (6,000–2,500 BCE) was accompanied by the use of ceramics and, later, of metalworking. Both contributed to gatherings centered around food.

The settings in which these gatherings took place became more elaborate as a result, with new utensils such as Neolithic and Bronze Age beakers and vessels used as containers.

Large Bell-Beaker Vessel (B.C. 2200 - B.C. 1800) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

The large bell beaker found in the Drólica Cave is an exceptional example of this. It is spherical in shape with a narrow neck. Its surface is covered in spatula-like markings and decorated with bands and grooved lines.

It would have been used as a vessel, probably for liquids, and was useful for storing provisions.

Some researchers have suggested that this type of vessel would have been used for alcoholic drinks. Given the object's volume—around 2,100 fluid ounces—it was almost certainly intended for group use.

Kalathos (B.C. 300 - B.C. 100) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

Iberian Era

The Museum of Huesca also houses objects that are evidence of banqueting as a social event in the Iberian culture.

The invention of the potter's wheel meant that Iberian ceramics were of a quality and level of perfection that had never been seen before.

Particularly interesting items in the collections include the painted ceramics, generally featuring plant-like and geometric motifs in wine-like tones, such as in this calathos ceramic vase which was used as a vessel.

Vessel of Verdvllvs (c. 50 - 100) by Gaivs Valerivs VerdvllvsMuseo de Huesca

Roman Era

Banqueting in Ancient Rome was an opportunity for a host to demonstrate their generosity, culture, and wealth.

In the classical world—in both Greece and Rome—wine and food were used to enliven conversations, word play, and performances of music and dance.

Plato's Symposium, written in around 380 BCE, narrates a dialog on love that takes place in a banqueting scene, with quotes including: “Every action in and of itself is neither beautiful nor ugly; the things we are doing now, drinking, eating, conversing; none of this is in itself beautiful, but it can become that way, according to how it is done. It is beautiful if done in accordance with the rules of honesty; and ugly if not done in accordance with these rules.”

Bowl (c. 100) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

We know that the Romans had a wide range of cooking equipment, thanks to the pots, bowls, trays, and jugs that archaeologists have discovered over the years. Two main types have been identified: the fine tableware known as terra sigillata, and the more humble-looking slipware.

Amphorae for transporting wine, oil, and salted meat and fish are evidence of the Empire's commercial activity.

The numerous ceramic objects decorated with banqueting scenes also tell us about the Romans' banqueting habits.

Banquets were held for a variety of reasons: to commemorate ceremonial, social and family events, and celebrations, funerals, military victories, or political agreements.

Salome With the Head of John the Baptist (c. 1550 - 1559) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

The Banquet in Painting and as a Display of Wealth

To hold a banquet is to set a scene—to show the availability of food and the presence of important individuals.

Lot and His Daughters (c. 1716 - 1742) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

In the Museum's collections, such a celebration is an excuse to put on a series of outstanding iconographic displays. Banqueting is reflected in Renaissance and Baroque paintings and engravings that describe biblical stories of times gone by.

One such example is the 18th-century engraving, Lot's Descendants, depicting an episode that took place between 2,000 and 1,500 BCE. Another is the Renaissance panel painting, The Annunciation of the Virgin, which depicts an episode from the Roman era.

These works of art have allowed us to create links between the utensils and other materials housed in the Museum of Huesca, and representations of banqueting ceremonies in art.

This Baroque engraving represents a biblical quote that has been a recurring theme since Renaissance times. According to the Bible, Lot fled with his family from their hometown of Sodom, which was being destroyed.

The scene describes the moment in which Lot takes refuge with his daughters in a cave. The town is in the background and his wife has been turned into a pillar of salt for having disobeyed the command not to look back.

The story's main event is shown in the foreground, dominated by the father and his two daughters. The daughters, concerned about the future that awaits them as unmarried, childless women, get their father drunk in an attempt to seduce him.

The events take place in a banqueting scene, in which wine is the only permitted foodstuff, causing Lot to become delirious. The characters are part of a relaxed, sensual setting that suggests a convivial environment, with glasses of wine in their hands and pitchers nearby.

Salome With the Head of John the Baptist (c. 1550 - 1559) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

In the story of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, as told by the evangelists Matthew and Mark, the events unfold at Herod's banquet.

Salome, the daughter of Herod's wife, requests St. John's head as a prize for dancing at the banquet. She is encouraged by her mother, who is eager to take revenge on John the Baptist because he did not approve of her marriage.

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (c. 1500) by UnknownMuseo de Huesca

The panel painting housed in the Museum of Huesca depicts the entire scene. The beheading of John the Baptist is shown in the background, with Salome and the executioner; while in the foreground, we see the banquet with Herod and his wife alongside Salome, now carrying the tray with the head of the deceased.

The banquet is the focal point around which the characters are arranged; it is the place in which the events unfold, and the backdrop for the entire scene.

The Annunciation (1515 - 1519) by Maestro de SijenaMuseo de Huesca

The panel painting of the Annunciation, from the town of Sigena, presents the viewer with a unique backdrop: not just because of the scene itself, in which we see the Virgin together with the Theological and Cardinal Virtues, but also because of the detailed recreation of a domestic scene to the left of the work.

The cook, who represents St. Anne as the mother of the family, is standing on the threshold. Next to her is the fireplace on which the food is cooked. Other cooking utensils, closely linked to the themes we are exploring in this exhibition, are hanging up on the wall.

In this case, the banquet is replaced by the kitchen: a central room in everyday life, and an unusual feature in this representation of the Annunciation. It is depicted as a female space, closely associated with women, and has a series of decorative elements that enrich the scene.

Caprice (1891) by Bernardino Montañés PérezMuseo de Huesca

This Capriccio by Bernadino Montañés is a reflection on life and death, an interplay of visual effects used by the artist to create an illusion between appearance and reality.


The sweetness of the foreground, shown by the scene with two children, takes on a more dramatic quality when the viewer sees the skull that appears as a visual effect when viewed from a distance.

In this instance, the banquet is represented by the depiction of the food and drink in the foreground, next to the two children, creating a little still life to accompany and adorn the scene. The depiction of the fruit and glass bottles adds to the scene's romanticism and sense of relaxation, perfectly complementing the rest of the work.

The Eagle Table (1655) by Cristóbal PérezMuseo de Huesca

The table is an essential element for a banquet in our culture.

This table is made from walnut wood and comes from the Colegio de Santiago, where it was used by pupils as a refectory table, and later as a table in the Council Room of the Huesca's town council.

Credits: Story

Museum of Huesca, Government of Aragon.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps