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Feast & Fast

The Art of Food in Europe, 1500 – 1800

244: The Reverend Licentiate Sédillo at Dinner

The Reverend Licentiate Sédillo at Dinner or or The Reverend Licentiate Sédillo at Dinner or The Canon’s Gluttony This is a scene from the popular French comic novel, L’Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane by Alain-René Lesage, which was published in instalments between 1715 and 1735, and translated into English in 1749. The fast-paced biography charts the rise of the low-born Spaniard Gil Blas from impoverished valet to king’s favourite.

Stothard’s painting shows Blas (at far right) as valet to the gluttonous, gout- ridden Canon Sédillo, who would daily indulge himself in a large lunch of soup, roast partridge, and two quails. Such gluttony was the Canon’s downfall: three months later, a downturn in health led to his physician prescribing a diet of ‘insipid’ food and water to counteract his previously over-rich diet, but it was too little too late, and he died shortly afterwards. This painting was probably commissioned as a conversation piece by a fan of Gil Blas, and a gentle reminder of the dangers of over- indulgence.

Thomas Stothard RA (1755 –1834) London, England, early 19th century Oil on oak panel Private Collection

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