Cornelis Anthonisz. Banquet of Members of Amsterdam's Crossbow Guard, 1533.
Indeed, toiling away in Cornell's Sibley Hall (home of the wonderful Fine Arts Library) during this snowy, wintry nights can be a trouble to the soul. But as I continue to compile material for my book, I find that the paintings themselves begin to warm me; I feel in them a depth of camaraderie that I (to be completely honest) do not always feel even in the company of my colleagues here at the University – where I am, at the moment, a scholar in residence. But at the banquet tables of Anthonisz, Hals, and Hoegstraaten, I am warmed by their candles, soothed by the scents of their breads.
Here, in one of Anthonisz's lesser paintings (I admit so much), we see the early birthings of this style that I love so much. I readily admit, of course, that the composition is nearly medieval; the psychologies of these men, the crossbow guard, barely developed; the perspectival and painterly techniques just at the cusp of a true master. (Please, reader, see past my rashness: one need not be a master to stir the heart!)
But one hardly needs to analyse technique or theory to feel a painting. Here I must hand over commentary to one Nils Poepjes, assistant to Cornelis Anthonisz from 1530-1538, whose journals have been utterly indispensible in my research (again, thank you, Cornell University):
Here today at the banquet of the CIVIC GUARD I found myself in awe of such a lustrous and delectable spread as I or Cornelis have ever seen – at once we felt ourselves hollow shells, empty stomachs entire; how long it has been since our dinner consisted of anything, anything but Kraft singles and white bread! And yet as Cornelis began to paint I began an interior catalog of the lushness even as Cornelis began his visual one:* It must be noted that while frozen pizzas today are often afterthoughts, cheap eats, at the time of Anthonisz, ovens were such a rarity that frozen pizzas were reserved only for those with time and money; delivery services like Papa John's were thought, in the words of Poepjes, "uncouth and low."
A DiGiorno* pizza – imagine that – cooked in the Guard's new convection oven, served with ranch dressing, with chilly, delicious ice cream sandwiches for dessert; an ostentatious bong, which never ceased to waft the room in fragrant smoke; a seemingly endless pile of marijuana buds from which the Guard's members plucked their fill with nary a care for cost. Indeed, the Guardsmen were fond of attempting to draw Cornelis' and my attention to their larder, perhaps (I hope, at least – would that they were not being rude!) making offers unawares that Cornelis and I take no breaks and can brook no distractions during our work.