Convivium – a gathering meant to be the food of good will, the seasoning of friendship, the leavening of grace and the solace of life; it revives humours, restores spirit, delights senses, fosters and awakens reason – from the letters of Marsilio Ficino to Bernardo Bembo
Now is the perfect time of year to host a holiday convivium, a coming together of family and friends to celebrate the season to “restore spirits” and foster good will. An opulent banquent of food and wine, both traditional and newly shared with aromas in the kitchen that tell of familiar tales with old recipes handed down and new ones experimented and most importantly, everyone eating together around a warm and welcoming table.
Marsilio Ficino and Bernado Bembo were both fans of the Renaissance convivium, an informal circle of friends that gathered together to discuss ideas and exercise their minds. Ficino, a 15th century Italian philosopher and scholar was an important intellectual figure in the circle of Lorenzo de’ Medici and would often be invited to the Medici villa in Careggi to discuss the teachings of the ancient philosophers.
Bernardo Bembo was the Venetian ambassador to Florence as well as one of the greatest Italian book collectors of the 15th century. The portrait of Ginevra de Benci (1474), the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the United States, is said to have been commissioned by Bembo whose affection for her was shared as a platonic affair. The painting was acquired in 1967 by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC for $5 million dollars paid to the Royal House of Liechtenstein.
*You may recognize the plural form of convivum as convivia — set up by the Slow Food movement in 1989 as an Italian initiative in reaction against increasing globalization and standardization of food. A key theme is to link together those who enjoy good food and want to preserve and support local, small-scale producers.