In this first painting from Hupert Robert, 1772, »A servant read aloud to Madame Geoffrin. » Marie-Thérèse Geoffrin maintained a famous salon that was frequented in the latter half of the century by all the fine minds of the time: Diderot, d’Alembert, François Boucher, and you might guess, Hupert Robert.
We see her having a cup of tea or perhaps chocolate, the new fashionable morning drink, while her servant reads her a passage from a novel. Reading aloud was one of the jobs delegated to male servants. The masters of great houses preferred their menservants to be educated, which accounts for the very high levels of literacy among their staff. Here, madame Geoffrin is having her breakfast.
At about this time, the morning meal in wealthy French homes began to take the form familiar for us today: hot, sweet drinks with bread and ham, brioches, croissants. In the country, where people got up earlier and needed more substantial food before working in the fields, the day began with a thick soup, often mixed with wine. The first meal of the day was also including eggs and fresh and cured meats. No doubt the pace of life and the intellectual activities of a woman of letters were such that she could easily do with a light morning refreshment. In any case, a woman in high society was duty-bound to have the appetite of a sparrow.
From the middle ages through the 17th century, members of every social class ate the day’s two main meals at about the same time everyday: dinner was in the middle of the day, at noon or one o’clock, and supper was in the evening. But in the 18th century well-to-do people throughout Europe began taking their meals later and later, as they began frequenting theaters and concert halls and having a more active night life than before.
For the elite of France, lunch became the midday meal, dinner was served in the late afternoon, and supper was eaten after the theater, just before midnight. While artisans and peasants remained firmly tied to the rhythms of the sun and took their meals accordingly.
The second picture, painted by J-F de Troy and called »Le déjeuner des huitres », was ordered by Louis the 15th in 1735 for his dining room of Versailles, where an other new drink was added in the copious morning meal: the Champagne! This beverage had being invented at the end of the 17th century by don Perignon, in the abbey of Hautevillers. The beverage made quite an impression at court, while guests had the surprise of their life to see a cap opening by itself!
This remarkable painting show us the characteristic libertine spirit of the period, revealing precious knowledge about the new reality of the French with dying light, with new social, cultural, politic and cultural views. Inspired by their king, they were living without moral, as if everyday was the last, enjoying everything they could, having taste for luxury and debauchery, being only concentrated in the joy life could bring them. Then, what a better way for them, to start the orgy in the morning, with champagne and ousters!