Picking mushrooms in silk shoes

In the 18th Century the dessert started to become the most decoratively elaborate course of dinner parties. This makes sense, if you think about the fact that once people have filled their stomachs and had a few glasses of wine, conversations become lively. And as the dessert is the last course, it will make the strongest impression on guests, particularly if they are in a jolly state of satisfaction. So for the dessert, a host would pull out all the stops: the porcelain dessert service was usually more lavish than the dinner service and the table would be adorned with flowers and porcelain figures.

These figures could be following a theme that could either be random or very carefully chosen to give a message or guide the conversation. If a marriage needed to be arranged, perhaps you needed a collection of figures expressing the five virtues, or a matrimonial theme. If a host wanted to impress his or her guests with the power and plenty of their landed wealth, they would bring in shepherds and animals. And so the famous shepherd series was born: shepherds playing music, selling flowers, reciting love letters, or picking mushrooms.