A Renaissance Dream Banquet

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Conference Title

Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), Place, Taste, and Sustenance: The Social Spaces of Food an Agriculture


Boston University, Boston, MA

Conference Dates

June 7-11, 2006

Date of Presentation



Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (The Strife of Love in a Dream) of 1499 is a bizarre architectural-erotic fantasy whose imagery has often perplexed commentators. One particular banquet scene has defied scrutiny. This paper decodes the meal as a typical Renaissance banquet, as harmonious and balanced as any painting or edifice, yet offering an image of divine feeding. The flavors, ingredients and meal structure all reflect current culinary aesthetics as well as Neo-Platonic love theory, occult symbolism and humoral medicine.