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Gold pineapple welcomes visitors to Feast & Fast exhibition

A gigantic gold pineapple, by contemporary artists Bompas & Parr, has landed on the front lawn of The Fitz. The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and welcomes visitors in to see the major new exhibiton Feast & Fast: The Art of Food in Europe 1500 – 1800 a research - led interdisciplinary show celebrating the history of food in early modern Europe.

The pineapple is an essential motif of the exhibition. Its production and culinary uses as well as its artistic and cultural resonances are explored in the exhibition. It was an emblem of power, and wealth and continues to attract interest from plant scientists, historians, and artists. Its ‘discovery’ by European colonisers in the late fifteenth century and its trajectory around the world, from an object of luxury and horticultural innovation in the early modern period to an everyday food in a can is one of the central stories of early modern globalisation. Its unique taste inspired monarchs and popes to spend fortunes cultivating its fruit and, by the eighteenth century, it had become the symbol of luxury and a staple of high-end confectioners’ shops.

The history of the pineapple in Britain also has an important connection to the Fitz. Matthew Decker, grandfather of the founder of the museum, was the first to grow a crop of pineapples in Britain. Decker was so pleased with this horticultural triumph that he commissioned Theodore Netscher in 1720 to paint the ‘portrait’ of a fully-grown pineapple flourishing in an English landscape rather than a tropical Eden. The picture is part of our founding collection and exhibited in the show.

Matthew Decker's botanical feat was widely publicised by his friend, Richard Bradley, the first Professor of Botany at Cambridge University. To commemorate this link and to celebrate this tercentenary, the Bompas & Parr gold pineapple will remain on the front lawn of the Fitz for the duration of the show.

University of Cambridge A feast for the senses

CRASSH Pineapple Conference 20 - 21 February 2020

9 January 2020

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