|Pre-Columbian drinking vessel with|
a monkey smoking a cigarette
and holding a cacao pod. Interesting
fact: the word cigar comes from
the Mayan language.
(Boston Fine Arts)
|1600s: Netherlands agents became major tobacco shippers|
for Europe. Dutch painter David Tenniers the Younger
reflected this in many paintings, including this:
"Monkeys Smoking and Drinking"
The author cites an Aztec poem that describes this combination of pleasures:
"The flowering chocolate drink is foamingShe explains: "The sensory delights -- epitomized by chocolate -- bind the gods and earthlings. In experiencing the hedonistic pleasures of the gods, the inebriation of the senses, the celebrants experience divinity." ("Song of Tlaltecatzin," cited in Sacred Gifts, p. 32-33)
The flower of tobacco is passed around,
If my heart would taste them
My life would become inebriated"
Norton's choices of art works from both the New World and the Old World especially fascinated me. I can't do justice here to this complex social and commodity history, but I have chosen a few of the images from the book to include in this post.
In the world of the Aztecs, Mixtecs, Maya, and other peoples of Mexico, both cacao and tobacco were held sacred, and frequently used together in sacred rites. Drinking chocolate beverages or smoking tobacco was a privilege often limited to priests or high nobility. Tobacco spread very slowly in Spain and then Europe, at first being imported in small quantities for personal use, and eventually becoming commoditized and ultimately a major source of revenue to support the absolute kings of Spain.
|Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I: Mixtec cosmology and geneaology (National Library, Vienna).|
The two central figures just left of the red line are sharing a pot of chocolate to celebrate their marriage.
|Antonio de Pereda: Still life with|
an Ebony Chest, 1652 (source)
|Detail: Pereda depicted a chocolate pot, a "mollina" (wooden frother), and appropriate drinking vessels. |
All are based on native Americans' chocolate-making utensils.
"It testifies to the enduring Mesoamerican sensory aeshetic." (Sacred Gifts p. 170)
|Adriaen Brouwer: The Smokers, ca. 1636|
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Both chocolate and tobacco were distrusted as reflecting savage and non-Christian elements. Sacred Gifts documents many struggles among Europeans, especially within the Catholic church, over the appropriate use of these products. And points out that drinking chocolate was a gateway to the later popularity of coffee and tea. A great book!