The Art of Cooking I

L.B. Alberti

Painting and eating

Two treatises were written in the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. The first one in Florence in 1436 by the great humanist, Leon Battista Alberti, entitled Della Pittura (On Painting), and the second one in Rome around 1460 by the “eminent” Maestro Martino de Rossi, under the name of Libro de arte coquinaria (The Art of Cooking). Painting and cuisine were respectively the subjects of these manuscripts. What is astonishing is that both these works are still available in bookstores and on the Web, which shows that they contain knowledge and wisdom still relevant to today’s artist and cook.

Martino's book

Della Pittura was dedicated to the artists and art patrons of the Quattrocento. It was the first modern treatise on the theory of painting—but not the earliest one since around 1390 the Italian artist Cennino Cennini wrote Il libro dell’arte, a discussion on early Italian painting techniques with detailed instructions and advices for painters, though in the tradition of medieval works. In about one hundred pages, Alberti discusses the type of person who is an artist: a good person, educated, cultured, and open-minded. He also describes the characteristics of an excellent work of art in terms of form and content. The last few pages are devoted to the very first rules for drawing perspective, discovered in 1425 by the equally talented Filippo Brunelleschi, also an architect and sculptor. In the end, Alberti says, a painting should ultimately “stir the soul” of the beholder. The book was widely read in Tuscany, and somewhat later in Northern Europe thanks to the printing press, thus giving birth to modern painting (next post on The Art of Cooking).

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