Over the next little while I’ll be bringing a new series to ‘things i’m loving…’ called The Exquisite, where I profile entries from the book “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights” by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins, and pair them with images I’ve sourced that inspire. I received this coffee table book as a gift, and love flipping through to land on little luxuries that are profiled on it’s pages. The author notes that the book is a celebration of luxury, but that “it is not about money.” Luxury can be found in the commonplace as much as the rare.
So, I hope you enjoy this little adventure with me in The Exquisite, from A to Z.
Text from “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite” by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
Poised between civilization and the wild, picturesque picnicking and outdoor dining alfresco – “in the fresh air,” as the Italians say – offered stiff, cinched Victorians a chance to escape the city and to breathe. Chaperons kept an eye on young picnickers, but “even the rigidest disciplinarian will romp a little when there is green grass underfoot and a blue sky overhead,” as one writer pointed out.
Bolstered by flirtation, sunshine and good food, the ancient Romans began the grand tradition. Average citizens celebrated festivals under giant tents, in imitation of the nomadic kings of the East, who traveled in sprawling tented cities. The wealthy put on deluxe banquets in their gardens, as rich Florentines of the Renaissance era would later do. During the Renaissance, even alfresco meals were exactingly formal. Servants hauled out a giant sideboard, and every dish on the long stone table was arranged symmetrically on top of a triple layer of fine damask cloth, right down to the perfumed finger bowls. The French took a self-consciously laid-back approach, heading outdoors in the eighteenth century with their fetes champetres, rosy pastoral parties celebrated by painters like Watteau, Fragonard, and Boucher. Silken Parisian ladies and their gallants ate at tables brought into the Tuileries, then lazed under the trees by the Seine.