where are my art history books when I need them most?

Yesterday, after work, I took the afternoon and visited the exhibition Primitivos Portugueses, that will be closing next Sunday. The exhibition is about portuguese alterpiece paintings from the 15th and 16th century, where, of course, religious themes prevail. Having studied art history, I felt at ease with most the concepts and painting techniques explained during the visit, that reminded me of the long hours reading art history books and taking notes during Professor Carlos Moura's classes.
When I visit these kind of painting exibitions, where Annunciations, Cruxifitions or Nativity scenes are abundant, what I usually look for are small and interessting everyday objects that highlight and distinguish each painting in it's foreground or background. I was amazed with the following details:

In these scenes, where the Virgin is laying in bed, it was painted in the foreground this arrangement: pomegranate seeds in a bowl with an ivory spoon; small glass jars with a cloth over the top and very small inscriptions. One thing for sure is that, in all religious themed paintings, every object represented has it's own purpose and meaning: 
pomegranate seeds are a symbol associated with the Virgem;
the ivory spoon associated with the african discoveries and the import of ivory products from Benin or Sierra Leoa;
glass jars are in fact jam jars with the recipe written on the cloth covering. Jam is related to the use of sugar that was also an imported product and used as a remedy in convalescent situations.
Interesting, don't you think?


  1. Gostava muito de ter visto essa exposição e só por acaso, hoje estive a fazer compota! :-)

  2. compota!!! sabes eu tenho uma receita infalível e super deliciosa de compota de abobora! quererdes?

  3. Claro! Compota de abóbora, requeijão e nozes... nada melhor! Obrigada :-)

  4. aqui vai: http://smallappletree.blogspot.com/2009/11/pumpkin-jam.html

    bom proveito!

  5. Carlos Moura ! foste aluna dele ??? então somos colegas !!!! lembro-me ainda da penumbra que me adormecia com os slides ...
    e tb vou experimentar a receita de compota de abóbora !

  6. Olá Vera! eu até gostava das aulas dele, mas também adormecia a cada passo!

  7. I agree with you that the spoons are ivory spoons from Sierra Leone. What are the 2 paintings of which these are details?