We All Scream for Ice Cream

Posted in journal articles by Editor on July 20, 2013

In case you’re somewhere hot, thinking about ice cream . . . (a full list of contents for the current issue of Past & Present is available here).

Melissa Calaresu, “Making and Eating Ice Cream in Naples: Rethinking Consumption and Sociability in the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present 220 (August 2013): 35-78.

Pietro Fabris, Venditore di sorbett’a minuto, from his Raccolta di varii vestimenti ed arti del Regno di Napoli (Naples, 1773). © British Library Board D-7743.h.13.

Pietro Fabris, Venditore di sorbett’a minuto, from his Raccolta di varii vestimenti ed arti del Regno di Napoli (Naples, 1773). © British Library Board D-7743.h.13.

Two barefoot children reach out to lick the spoon of the ice-cream seller. He carries a pouch around his waist that hints at the profits that are to be made from his trade. Two wooden containers rest on the ground beside him, one of which has a canister inside it and a strap outside to carry it, while the other holds a tray of cups to serve the ice cream (Plate 1).1 Behind this scene is the Angevin castle in Naples and a crowd gathered around a puppet stall. Pietro Fabris made this engraving as part of a collection depicting the costumes and customs of Neapolitans which was published in 1773 and dedicated to the British emissary to Naples, William Hamilton. Three years later, Fabris would provide elaborate hand-coloured illustrations for Hamilton’s scientific study of the eruptions of Vesuvius published in French and English and dedicated to the members of the Royal Society.2 Both books projected an image of Naples that appealed to the Grand Tourists who were flocking to see the excavations of the ancient cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii and the volcanic spectacle nearby (Vesuvius was particularly active in the last decades of the eighteenth century), and to experience life on the streets of the city. The collection of engravings including the sorbet seller appealed directly to a growing interest in Neapolitan popular culture and presented an image of the city as a theatre of extremes, in which the pleasures of life collided with the extreme poverty of the lazzaroni, and where its poorest inhabitants splurged on what — from a northern European perspective — might be seen as one of the great luxuries of the eighteenth century. We could leave our interpretation of the Fabris engraving there, safely within a history of the vast visual production of the Grand Tour in Italy, but the image conveys more than a tourist discourse about the exotic.3 In fact, the engraving illustrates the eating of a food product that was far from a luxury, and its sale to ordinary people on the streets of Naples, a point that has been completely overlooked by historians of the early modern period. . .


1 There is a variety of vocabulary in English, French and Italian describing ice or frozen desserts and drinks with a water or milk base. In Italian, sorbetto is used in the eighteenth century generally to describe what we know today as both sorbet and ice cream. Here I use the term ‘ice cream’ generically. All translations from Italian are my own unless otherwise stated.

2 Pietro Fabris, Raccolta di varii vestimenti ed arti del Regno di Napoli (Naples, 1773); William Hamilton, Campi Phlegræi: Observations on the Volcanos of the Two Sicilies as They Have Been Communicated to the Royal Society of London, 3 vols. (Naples, 1776–9), i–ii. On Fabris and Hamilton, see the essays in Ian Jenkins and Kim Sloan (eds.), Vases and Volcanoes: Sir William Hamilton and his Collection (London, 1996).

3 The use and the study of the term lazzaroni have a long history. It generally had a pejorative sense in travel accounts describing some of the poorer inhabitants of Naples, meaning ‘scoundrels’ or ‘layabouts’, although the lazzaroni became of increasing ethnographic interest at the end of the eighteenth century: see Melissa Calaresu, ‘From the Street to Stereotype: Urban Space, Travel and the Picturesque in Late Eighteenth-Century Naples’, Italian Studies, lxii (2007).

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Posted in on site by Editor on July 20, 2013
siehe Dateiname  Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Kassel, Germany
Photo, 2005, Wikimedia Commons

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From UNESCO (23 June 2013) . . .

Sites in Germany and Italy Bring to 19 the Number of Sites Added to the World Heritage List

Two new sites and one extension to a Polish site were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List on Sunday afternoon, bringing to 19 the total number of sites added to the List during the 37th session taking place in Phnom Penh.

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Germany

Descending a long hill dominated by a giant statue of Hercules, the monumental water displays of Wilhelmshöhe were begun by Landgrave Carl of Hesse-Kassel in 1689 around an east-west axis and were developed further into the 19th century. Reservoirs and channels behind the Hercules Monument supply water to a complex system of hydro-pneumatic devices that supply the site’s large Baroque water theatre, grotto, fountains and 350-metre long Grand Cascade. Beyond this, channels and waterways wind across the axis, feeding a series of dramatic waterfalls and wild rapids, the geyser-like Grand Fountain which leaps 50m high, the lake and secluded ponds that enliven the Romantic garden created in the 18th century by Carl’s great-grandson, Elector Wilhelm I. The great size of the park and its waterworks along with the towering Hercules statue constitute an expression of the ideals of absolutist Monarchy while the ensemble is a remarkable testimony to the aesthetics of the Baroque and Romantic periods.

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Also from UNESCO:

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (Photo by Jens Haines, 2012 from Wikimedia Commons)

Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
Photo by Jens Haines, 2012 from Wikimedia Commons

Inspired by the dramatic topography of its site, the Hercules monument and water features of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe created by the Landgrave Carl from 1689 combine in an outstanding demonstration of man’s mastery over nature. The monumental display of rushing water from the Octagon crowned by the massive Hercules statue via the Vexing Grotto and Artichoke Basin with their hydro pneumatic acoustic effects, Felsensturz Waterfall and Giant’s Head Basin down the Baroque Cascade to Neptune’s Basin and on towards the crowning glory of the Grand Fountain, a 50-metre high geyser that was the tallest in the world when built in 1767, is focused along an east-west axis terminating in the centre of the city of Kassel. Complemented by the wild Romantic period waterfalls, rapids and cataracts created under Carl’s great-grandson the Elector Wilhelm I, as part of the 18th-century landscape in the lower part of the Bergpark, the whole composition is an outstanding demonstration of the technical and artistic mastery of water in a designed landscape. Together with the 11.5m high bronze Hercules statue towering above the park and visible from many kilometres, which represents an extraordinary sculptural achievement, they are testimony to the wealth and power of the 18th- & 19th-century European ruling class.

Criterion (iii): The towering statue of Hercules and the water displays of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe are an exceptional symbol of the era of European Absolutism.

Criterion (iv): The water displays of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe are an outstanding and unique example of monumental water structures. Cascades of similar size and artificial waterfalls of comparable height can be found nowhere else. The Hercules statue, towering over the 560 hectare park, is both technically and artistically the most sophisticated and colossal statue of the Early Modern era. The ensemble of water features with their monumental architectural settings is unparalleled in the garden art of the Baroque and Romantic periods. (more…)

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