From Mesopotamia to the Elysée Palace via the Middle Ages, the exhibition Tables of Power spans 5,000 years in an unusual exploration of the history of the culinary arts. Nearly 400 works, including archaeological objects, paintings, sculptures, tableware, metalwork and prestigious objets d’art recount the history of cultural practices connected with the meal, through the rich exchanges of traditions between civilizations, from the ancient Near East to the present day.
Today a meal is seen as a convivial moment of sharing for families, relations and friends, but for centuries it has been an opportunity to showcase power, hierarchy and the art of protocol. From the Mesopotamian liturgical banquet to Louis XIV’s grand couvert, from the meal eaten while reclining to the one consumed at a table, the customs associated with the culinary arts have constantly evolved. The exceptional pieces on display will transport visitors to Mesopotamia, Egypt and ancient Greece, and in particular to the dinner tables of kings and gods, as well as ordinary citizens.
Official meals, with their strict protocols, have provided societies with an opportunity to invent an artistic and cultural language aimed at showcasing a political system, a power and even an individual. Particular types of object, often very luxurious, were created as a result of these new developments. The exhibition immerses visitors in these symbolic manifestations and sheds light on what today’s practices owe to this culinary heritage.