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The power of wit

Posted February. 04, 2021 07:52,   

Updated February. 04, 2021 07:52


Two men are cooking in a fancy kitchen. The slim man on the left is a cook, while the plump man on the right is a cardinal. The young cook is surprised by the delicious sauce made by the elderly cardinal. The cook, tasting the sauce, looked amazed as if he were saying “Such heavenly taste!” while the cardinal holding a pan in one hand smiles with pride, gazing into the distance.  

The painting was created by Jehan Georges Vibert, a French painter in the 19th century. The painting is humorous, similar to a scene taken from a cook reality show in the 21st century, it also makes the audience curious. Why is the high-ranking clergy cooking in a kitchen? It is common for men to cook in modern days, but things were different in the 19th century. Particularly, it was unimaginable for a man from the upper class or high-ranking clergy to cook. However, the cardinal, who wears an apron on top of his formal wear, appears to cook with ease.

Vibert wished to portray the hypocrisy and corruption by clergy through this painting. He had lived in an age where France was going through rapid change, after the Prussia-France war, dethrone of Napoleon the Third and the establishment of the French Third Republic. France was transitioning from a monarchy to a republican system. High-ranking clergy at that time mostly came from royal or noble families and enjoyed affluent lifestyle, which was criticized by republicans. Against this background, Vibert gained great fame with his satire paintings. Cardinals or bishops depicted in his paintings cook, play cards, tell fortunes with fortune tellers or busy losing weight- which have nothing to do with religious lifestyle.

Though the message of his paintings were satirical, which Vibert could have been punished for back then, he gained great popularity with his witty and humorous descriptions, which were well-known in the U.S. and even liked by clergy. Vibert’s satirical paintings were so witty that they even attracted the targets of criticism, perhaps something that like the editorial cartoons of nowadays.