Feasts

Feasting will be around as long as there are people. Alongside spontaneous dancing and merrymaking, fixed feasts celebrating recurring events and phases of life were also instituted. In Western art, some festivities are depicted more frequently than others. Scenes of feasts from the Bible often served to edify the public. The Dance around the Golden Calf was an example of disobedience to God and the Marriage at Cana was a manifestation of Christ’s miraculous powers. In the 16th and 17th century, celebrations recounted in Greek mythology also received a place in art, such as the cult of the god of wine Bacchus (Dionysus) and weddings between gods, demigods or human beings. Dating from the same period are also numerous depictions of peasants carousing at kermises and tipsy carnival goers. These paintings instruct the viewer what not to do by presenting the originally Catholic events as fairly base pastimes. Exceptions to this are the feasts of Saint Nicholas and Saint Martin, which in the Protestant Dutch Republic, however, were reserved expressly for children.

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