Master goldsmith, fine porcelain, Bohemian crystal ... If these terms are part of the lexical field of tableware, let's not forget that the popular arts are also full of fascinating objects of all kinds, an integral part of culinary traditions. This week, Paul Bert Serpette invites you to sit down with Samuel Collin, an antique dealer specializing in popular arts and traditions who will enlighten you on this delicious subject…
How did we sit at the table?
If in the nobility of the Middle Ages, we already sit at the table to eat, this is not the case in peasant circles. Tables were used more for making meals. At noon, the meal was taken at the workplace and the evening soup was tasted by the fireside, seated astride a bench. It was not until the holidays that the table as we understand it today was set.
What items are found on popular tables?
The plates only appeared around the 18th century. Before that, only bowls were used. The clutery as for them, were very few. The knife being reserved for the master of the house, the other members of the family had only a spoon at their disposal. Each had his own with a particular mark used to recognize it. This is why we found in the houses, spoon holders.
Many potteries were present on the tables, and not only among the peasants. During the medieval period and until the 17th century, popular ceramics (glazed earthenware, sandstone, pottery, etc.) were also found on the tables of Princes, among the nobility and the bourgeoisie. In Saintonge, the followers of Bernard Palissy produced a much more popular ceramic, these are remarkable pieces in glazed earth, which were found everywhere on large tables and which were entirely part of the tableware. It is possible to observe it on old paintings, pieces of folk art appear just as well on peasant tables as on bourgeois and even noble tables!
In addition to pottery, we very often find food warmers on tables. The copper or brass models are well known, but there are also very popular in glazed earth.
Do you have a favorite piece?
Particularly liking Norman objects, I chose this table stove in earth partially glazed with manganese, dating from the 18th century. These table stoves were intended to be placed in the middle of the table, the upper bowl filled with embers and allowed to keep the dishes warm or to cook food quickly like eggs. Become rare today, it was frequent at the time to find them in almost every house. These objects of ancient use, were already made in medieval times.
I also present this Norman terrine from the 18th century, in glazed earth marbled with manganese. This piece is particularly touching by the representation of the hare, at the same time rustic but nevertheless finely worked in the realistic details of the morphology of the hare. These terrines were put on the table on feast days or during special family festive occasions. The hare pâté was cooked in this gîte and directly presented to the guests.