06 January 2010

How to have a party the Renaissance way

Here is Vasari on a banquet held by the Compagnia della Cazzuola:
Ceres, seeking Proserpine her daughter, who had been carried off by Pluto, entered the room where the men of the Cazzuola were assembled, and, coming before their master, besought him that they should accompany her to the infernal regions. To which request consenting after much discussion, they went after her, and so, entering into a somewhat darkened room, they saw in place of a door a vast mouth of a serpent, the head of which took up the whole wall. Round which door all crowding together, while Cerberus barked, Ceres called out asking whether her lost daughter were in there, and, a voice having answered Yes, she added that she desired to have her back. But Pluto replied that he would not give her up, and invited Ceres with all the company to the nuptials that were being prepared; and the invitation was accepted. Whereupon, all having entered through that mouth, which was full of teeth, and which, being hung on hinges, opened to each couple of men that entered, and then shut again, they found themselves at last in a great room of a round shape, which had no light but a very little one in the centre, which burned so dim that they could scarcely see one another. There, having been pushed into their seats with a great fork by a most hideous Devil who was in the middle, beside the tables, which were draped in black, Pluto commanded that in honor of his nuptials the pains of Hell should cease for as long as those guests remained there; and so it was done.

Now in that room were painted all the chasms of the regions of the damned, with their pains and torments; and, fire being put to a match of tow, in a flash a light was kindled at each chasm, thus revealing in the picture in what manner and with what pains those who were in it were tormented. The viands of that infernal supper were all animals vile and most hideous in appearance; but nevertheless within, under the loathly covering and the shape of the pastry, were most delicate meats of many kinds. The skin, I say, on the outer side, made it appear as if they were serpents, grass-snakes, lizards large and small, tarantulas, toads, frogs, scorpions, bats, and other suchlike animals; but within all were composed of the choicest viands. And these were placed on the tables before every man with a shovel, under the direction of the Devil, who was in the middle, while a companion poured out exquisite wines from a horn of glass, ugly and monstrous in shape, into glazed crucibles, which served as drinking glasses. These first viands finished, which formed a sort of relish, dead men's bones were set all the way down the table in place of fruits and sweetmeats, as if the supper, which was scarcely begun, were finished; which reliquary fruits were of sugar. That done, Pluto, who proclaimed that he wished to go to his repose with his Proserpine, commanded that the pains should return to torment the damned; and in a moment all the lights that have been mentioned were blown out by a sort of wind, on every side were heard rumblings, voices, and cries, awesome and horrible, and in the middle of that darkness, with a little light, was seen the image of Baia the bombardier, who was one of the guests, as has been related condemned to Hell by Pluto for having always chosen as the subjects and inventions of his girandole and other fireworks the seven mortal sins and the things of Hell. While all were occupied in gazing on that spectacle and listening to various sounds of lamentation, the mournful and funereal table was taken away, and in place of it, lights being kindled, was seen a very rich and regal feast, with splendid servants who brought the rest of the supper, which was handsome and magnificent. At the end of the supper came a ship full of various confections, and the crew of the ship, pretending to remove their merchandize, little by little brought the men of the Company into the upper rooms, where, a very rich scenic setting having been already prepared, there was performed a comedy called the Filogenia, which was much extolled; and at dawn, the play finished, every man went happily home.

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