Regency Sugar Sculpture in the Royal Pavilion
The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, has generously donated to the Royal Pavilion a selection of extraordinary and fragile sugar sculptures created by the food historian Ivan Day in 2002.
Table decoration in the form of sculpture made from sugar paste and gum was an essential component of royal dining from medieval times until the 19th century. Such sculptures were made by confectioners, table deckers, and pastry cooks. They were pressed from moulds or sculpted by hand and were mostly purely ornamental and not intended to be eaten. The art reached its peak in Britain during the Regency period (1790-1830) when Antonin Carême created sculpted sugar temples, triumphal arches, pyramids and pagodas for the Prince Regent at Brighton.
Lavish table displays featuring sideboards piled with silver-gilt and tables spread with luxury wares not only created a sense of occasion, but also demonstrated the power of the monarchy. The silver and porcelain have survived but naturally no contemporary examples of sugar sculpture exist. Ivan Day has recreated this lost art using authentic French wooden moulds (which would have been used throughout Europe) together with designs and descriptions to be found in historic cookery books.
Over the next few weeks visitors will be able to see changing displays of sugar sculpture both in the Banqueting Room and the Table Deckers’ Room. The Prince of Wales’s table decker, Benjamin Zobel, a Hungarian-born confectioner, became famous for creating coloured sand pictures which were used to decorate the table and which supplemented the sugar sculptures to create what was known as the theatre of the table.
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