The French, hot chocolate, and an elegant pot:
A refined vessel found its place in history & art
Although the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, so says Eliza Doolittle, we can all be thankful that chocolate didn’t, and in fact made it across that expanse into the rest of Europe.
The French, of course, came up with a more refined version of the cacao beverage in the early 1600s. Hot chocolate became so popular among the French elite and the Court — it was served daily at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV — that it became necessary to innovate more effective methods, and vessels, for daily production.
Voila! The French Chocolatière (chocolate pot). The French fashioned the pots on the premise of ancient Mesoamerican gourd vessels, but in that oh so elegant but efficient manner of the French.
The porcelain, gold, or silver pear-shaped pots featured a hinged lid with a hole in the top to insert the moulinet (swizzle stick), which was used to froth the drink.
The French chocolate pots were so critical to the fashionable elite that history records the Marquise de Sévigné in 1671 lament her daughter’s lack of a pot.
“But you do not have a chocolatière; I have thought of it a thousand times; what will you do? Alas, my child, you are not wrong when you believe that I worry about you more than you worry about me.” — Coe & Coe, 2013, “The True History of Chocolate.”
Chocolatière in Fine Art
(See images below)
The hot chocolate beverage and the Chocolatière (chocolate pot) were popular with artists from the 18th and 19th centuries, with one of the more famous being The Chocolate Girl, circa 1743-44, by Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702-1789). The Pastel on parchment , standing 3 feet tall, is considered to be the Swiss artist’s most prominent work. The painting shows a serving maid from Vienna carrying a tray with a porcelain chocolate cup and a glass of water. Since 1855 the picture has hung in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden.
About a decade later in his homage to 17th century Dutch painters, Liotard painted A Dutch Girl at Breakfast (or A Lady Pouring Chocolate), c. 1756, one of his rare works in oil. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam acquired the painting in 2016.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), an older compeer who helped Picasso (1881-1973) define radical contemporary art in the 20th century, often chose the chocolate pot as commonplace object in his still life paintings. The silver chocolatière was gifted to Matisse as a wedding gift from his friend and fellow artist Albert Marquet.
Even Picasso got in on the chocolate pot craze with this still life paintings.
Still thirsty for more on hot chocolate?
Read my post about the Haute Chocolate that never goes out of season!
Here’s a curated list of readings on the subject:
- The Evolution of the Chocolatière: From French Innovation to Retirement in Museums
- An Abridged History of Hot Chocolate
- Jane Austen’s World: Hot Chocolate, 18th-19th Century Style
Click on images below to read the title, artist, and more information on each painting:
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