Staging the Table in Europe 1500–1800 provides a window into the culinary spectacles created during Europe’s early modern period. The exhibition explores the dining customs and practices of the time through illustrated books used by servants, or upwardly-mobile middle class readers hoping to emulate nobles and aristocrats. The manuals include instructions for carving meats, fishes, and fruits and folding napkins into elaborate sculptural forms. Images from the books are displayed alongside the material culture of the table: rarely seen table linens and carving knives and forks made of precious materials. Together, these words, pictures, and things provide a glimpse of the ephemeral world of the early modern table.

This online companion explores the major themes of the exhibition, presenting instructional manuals, and tools for carving at the table, through their decorative as well as functional attributes while showcasing how the drama of the early modern banquet was produced, from the creation of intricately folded napkins and sculptural tabletop displays, to the ornate tableside carving techniques. A student-developed interactive featuring a deck of carving-themed playing cards invites visitors to learn about early modern European foodways and their illuminating, often surprising and far-flung, connections to dining practices in our own time and around the world