Image: Florian Baucke, Taking Down the Honey, (c. 1749-1767).
We are back from our summer pause and picking up our weekend posts about art, often with themes that intersect with food. Our vacation took us out west, where the history of Spanish colonies and the accompanying missions define the names along the coast of California. The highway has markers for El Camino Real. Many of the cities are named for the mission that anchored the Spanish presence, including Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez where we spent some time.
This painting comes from South America. It is by a eighteenth century Jesuit missionary who captured the local traditions while working in the reducciones de indios, where the indigenous populations were gathered to live independently of direct colonial rule and some protection from the slave trade. Some may remember the fictionalized and haunting depiction of this era in The Mission. The painter is Florian Baucke. We could find little about him, at least in English, though there is an account of his time there. He was missionary in Paraguay but then returned to Austrian Silesia. He was born in what is now Poland in 1719 and died in 1779 in what is now the Czech Republic.
The painting captures an ideal of working in the sun and harvesting something sweet, in this case honey, which seemed appropriate to the season. There is also a sense that the young missionary is doing a better job of absorbing the local culture than he is imposing the colonial one, and Baucke remains known today as a recorder of those local traditions. Our rudimentary internet sleuthing indicates that the originals are possibly held in a collection in an Austrian monastery.
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