Fine dining is a form of sensory seduction. It operates not only via the taste buds, but also via the visual appeal of the food and table setting. Beautiful porcelain and silverware, glittering crystal, fine damask and extravagant sugarwork table ornaments all have a part to play. This exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag uses a spectacular display of complete table settings, complemented by drawings, paintings and liveries, to bring the history of formal dining among the Netherlands’ wealthy elite, ruling class and royal house to vivid life. The perfect place to find inspiration for that very special Christmas dinner table!
Dutch Dining paints a fascinating picture of the way people in the top echelons of Dutch society were once accustomed to dine together. At tables laden with exquisite culinary delights and surrounded by an army of liveried footmen. The show is both a feast for the eye and a unique insight into the past. All of the objects in the reconstructed table settings are completely authentic – from the tableware to the ornaments, and even the furniture. The table linen comes from the very linen cupboard in which it has lain ever since the 18th century.
No table setting would be complete without meticulously folded napkins. The European fashion for the decorative use of table linen dates back to the Renaissance. In our own day, Catalan artist Joan Sallas is reviving this ‘forgotten art’ with his astonishingly skilful birds, fish and rabbits. The exhibition will feature ten such virtuoso constructions, all specially folded for the occasion.
An exclusive peek inside the royal porcelain and silverware cabinet will transport visitors right to the heart of the Noordeinde Palace. Stars of the show are two complete table services – a silver one of modern design and its more traditional porcelain counterpart – on loan from the collection of the Dutch Royal House. Both services were presented to Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrik on the occasion of their marriage in 1901 and the exhibition discloses which of the two found most favour with the royal couple.
The design of the exhibition is by Maarten Spruyt and Tsur Reshef. The lavishly illustrated Dutch-language catalogue, Nederland dineert. Vier eeuwen tafelcultuur (price: € 34.50), offers the first ever reliable survey of four centuries of Dutch table settings and contains historical essays. For the museum’s youngest visitors there is also a children’s picture book and a related exhibition in the children’s gallery.
The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (Voedingscentrum) are joining forces to organize a range of activities during the ‘Dutch Dining’ exhibition.
The exhibition includes items generously loaned by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Museum, Museum Van Loon, Kastelen Middachten, Amerongen, Twickel and de Haar, Fundatie van Renswoude Utrecht, Koninklijke Verzamelingen Den Haag, RCE/Jachthuis St. Hubertus, Huis der Provincie Arnhem and private collections.