Vincenzo Campi, “Cucina” (1580s)

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Kitchen (Cucina)

Vincenzo Campi

1580s Oil on canvas Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Vincenzo Campi (1536, Cremona, d. 1591, Cremona)

The Campi was a family of Italian painters in Cremona in the 16th century. In the north of Italy, where they had the splendid example of the Venetians and some knowledge of Flemish and German art, the contrasts of light and shade could express the Mannerist feeling perfectly, as in the work of the Campi at Cremona.

The head of the family was Galeazzo Campi (1477-1536), a pupil of Boccaccio Boccaccini. His close contacts with Tommaso Aleni are assumed, owing to stylistic alliance. In his landscapes influences from Giovanni Bellini and Perugino can be observed. He was the father of Giulio, Antonio and Vincenzo. Vincenzo Campi (1536-1591) trained under his brother Giulio. He painted mainly saints and portraits as well as genre-like still-lifes (vegetables, fruit and food), like the two fruit and fishmongers’ paintings at the Brera, Milan. Both show that he was influenced dutch painters, especially by Pieter Aertsen.

The painting

The kitchen (Cucina) belonged to the network of service spaces – from pantries to wine cellars – that kept the house supplied with food and drink.

Many servants rarely left the kitchens, and the woman of the house paid frequent visits to supervise their work.

This Kitchen scene shows us a lot of life and action happening at the same time.

There is a three-dimensional perspective and curiously female figures are the most visible on foreground in a world of upper-class kitchen usually dominated by male figures.

The few men are wearing clothes in fading colours like light grey or beige, while women are wearing pastel colours with a slash of blue calling the viewer’s attention to the right side of the painting.

Lights are coming from the right reinforcing the women’s role on the preparation of food.

Women and men , probably servants, are thus preparing the animal meat before it is cooked and there are a couple of pets as well, making this a typical domestic scene, probably in the kitchen of a noble family, for whom so much meat would be something common on special dates.

Meat was very popular during the Renaissance, even though the poor didn’t have it often. The meat back then was very spicy, so it was extremely salted to hide the spicy flavor. Meat was usually served in ragouts or pottages which was good for dealing with preserved meat.


Recipes with meat for a main course

 To make a stew after the guise of beyond the Sea

PERIOD: England, 1545 | SOURCE: A Propre new booke of Cokery | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: A lamb stew served over toasted bread

Take a half gallon of fair water / and as much wine & a breast of mutton chopped in pieces / then set it on the fire & scum it clean / then put thereto a dish full of sliced onions and a quantity of cinnamon / ginger / Cloves and Mace / with salt and stew them all together / and then serve them with sops.

  • Water
  • Wine – red or white
  • Lamb roast – in stewing pieces
  • Onions – sliced
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Cloves
  • Mace
  • Salt
  • Sops – thin strips or slices of toasted white bread

Bring to boil the lamb in equal amounts of water & wine, cleaning off any scum that may rise to the top. Add the sliced onions; reduce heat and season to taste with the spices. Stew gently for several hours, until the lamb is tender. Serve over the sops placed in dishes or bowls.


To stew bones or gristles of beef

PERIOD: England, 1545 | SOURCE: A Propre new booke of Cokery | CLASS: Authentic

DESCRIPTION: stewed beef bones & gristle seasoned with rosemary & mace

Take gristles of beef and stew them as tender as you can for six hours so that there be no broth left that shall serve you as that thyme;

Put a good bundle of rosemary in a faire linen clothe and a good quantity of mace in another cloth and boil them all together, then spread out the juice of the rosemary and mace upon the flesh and season it with salt and serve.


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