Francis W. Edmonds – Epicure

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Francis W. Edmonds

Francis Edmonds divided his life between the art and banking worlds and came to be well-known and respected in both. As his dual career developed, ties were formed between these two seemingly disparate arenas, as artist colleagues and New York art associations benefited from his business skills, and friends from the business world were inspired to become patrons of the arts. Although Edmonds at times expressed regret that the necessity of earning a living kept him from devoting his life to art, he applied himself to banking with an energy and ambition that would not have seemed possible if there had not been a genuine interest there, as well. He was a complex man who managed to make the most of his varied talents. The seventh child of Samuel Edmonds and Lydia Worth Edmonds, Francis was born in Hudson, New York on November 23, 1806. His father, a store-keeper, served in the state assembly and as county sheriff, then became Paymaster-General of the New York State Militia during and after the war of 1812. The boy showed a precocious talent for drawing and devoted all his leisure time to it, improvising on art supplies and technique. Engaged during the greater part of his life as a cashier in a bank, he devoted his mornings and evenings to painting, but this constant toil weakened his health so much that in 1840 he came to Europe for rest. He first exhibited at the New York Academy in 1836, under an assumed name, Sammy the Tailor. In 1838 he was elected an associate of the National Academy, and in 1840 an academician. Edmonds was also active in the American Art-Union. He died at his residence in Eastchester, New York on the Bronx River on February 7, 1863.

The Epicure

The simplicity of the setting of The Epicure obscures Edmonds’s debt to European art history. Trained at the National Academy of Design, he surely knew the work of the Dutch and Flemish still-life masters from print sources, private collections, auctions, and public exhibitions. American painters such as Edmonds, John Lewis Krimmel, and William Sidney Mount were deeply influenced by the seventeenth-century Dutch genre works of Johannes Vermeer, Adriaenvan Ostade, Pieter de Hooch, and Nicolaes Maes.
The first thing that grabs the attention in the painting is the plump man sitting at the table on the right side. Everything else – the meals already laid out on the table, the food and drink being brought by the other people, their clothes in comparison to the way the seated man is dressed – points to him being an Epicurist, as the painting’s title would suggest. The colours are relatively warm, thus making the room seem cosy and lived-in. Much like most other elements in this work of art, the lighting also makes the Epicurist the centre of attention – he as well as the items around him are the brightest parts of the painting, while the rest of it becomes darker and darker, the farther away from him it gets, in this way giving him a feeling of importance and at the same time dismissing anything and anyone else as something that does not matter.

Common ingredients of the time:
• fish
• seafood
• currant sauce
• mutton
• bear oil
• pork
• bacon
• rum (for marinating)
• whiskey (for marinating)

Recipes:
Mock Turtle Soup of Calf’s Head
Have the head nicely cleaned, divide the chop from the skull, take out the brains and tongue, and boil the other parts till tender, take them out of the water and put into it a knuckle of veal or four pounds of lean beef, three onions chopped, thyme, parsley, a teaspoonful of pounded cloves, the same of mace, salt, and cayenne pepper to your taste-boil these things together till reduced to a pint, strain it, and add two gills of red wine, one of mushroom and one of walnut catsup, thicken it with butter and brown flour; the head must be cut in small pieces and stewed a few minutes in the gravy; put a paste round the edge of a deep dish, three folds, one on the other, but none on the bottom; pour in the meat and gravy, and bake it till the paste is done; pick all strings from the brains, pound them, and add grated bread, pepper and salt, make them in little cakes with the yolk of an egg, fry them a nice brown, boil six eggs hard, Ieave one whole and divide the others exactly in two, have some bits of paste nice y baked; when the head is taken from the oven, lay the whole egg in the middle, and dispose the others, with the brain cakes and bits of paste.

Portable Soup
Take three legs of veal, one leg of beef, and the lean part of half a Ham; cut them into small pieces; put a quarter of a proud of Butter at the Bottom of a large Cauldron; then lay in the Meat and the Bones with four ounces of good Anchovies and two ounces of Mace. Cut off the green Leaves of five or six heads of celleri, wash the Heads of the Celleri clean, and then cut them up small, put them in, with three large Carrots, cut thin, then cover the Cauldron close and set it over a moderate fire. When you find the Gravy begins to draw, take it up and so continue taking up all the Gravy, as it draws, until you can draw more. Then put Water in sufficient to cover the meat, and set it upon the Fire again, there let it stew for four hours when you must strain it, into a clean Pan, through a hair Sieve. Set the Pan on the Fire, and let it boil three parts away; then strain your Gravy also, which you drew from your meat into the Pan or Pot, & set it again on the fire, and let the Soup boil gently until it looks thik like Glue, observing to skim it the whole time it is on the Fire very carefully so as to skim off all the Fat. You must take great care, when it is near enough done, that it doesn’t burn. Put in Chyan Pepper to your taste, pour it upon flat Dishes, a quarter of an Inch thick, and there let it stand until the next Day’ when you must cut it out with round Tins, a little large than a Crow piece. Lay the Cakes thus cut out on Dishes and set them in the Sun to dry. It will answer best to make the Soup in frosty weather. When the Cakes are dry, put them into Tin Boxes, or a Tin Box with writing Paper between every Cake, and keep them in a dry Place. Pour a pint of boiling water on one cake, add a little Salt, and you have immediately a Basin of good broth. A little boiling water upon one of the Cakes will make Gravy sufficient for a Turkey or Fowls. The longer the cakes are kept the better. As the cake is drying, be careful to turn them.

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