This thesis presents a comprehensive study of an unexplored aspect of the court of Ercole II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara (1534–1559), that is, the roles, duties, and organisation of employees known collectively as the “officers of the mouth”, officials devoted to food-related professions inside the duke’s household. More specifically, I explore the contribution these officers made to the efficiency and economic growth of the duke’s court. My exploration draws primarily on archival material that has been neither examined nor published within the academic domain. It includes registry books and numerous inventories from across the several household departments responsible for procuring, storing, and preparing food. My thesis takes readers from food markets, wholesalers, and specialist suppliers to the court’s food pantries, credenze (ornate sideboards used to store silverware and expensive plates), and kitchens, where the officers and other ducal employees prepared the duke’s favourite dishes. I also detail the duties of the officers of the mouth who made the d’Este household a highly-organised machine. From there, I take the information I gathered on the officers of the mouth from my primary sources and critically examine it within the context of descriptions and other information available in gastronomical and household treatises of the period. My aim here was to provide an in-depth knowledge of contemporary society’s perception of the roles of these officers and how that perception played out in their public image.
All welcome - This event is free, but booking is required.