Prank Banqueting

Osias Beert, Banquet Still Life, 1620-50, Oil on Canvas, 64,5 x 115 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

The name and location of the Lady Arundel’s Pranketing Room at Tart Hall are the key to identify the building as a banqueting house. This kind of building was an English invention for the so-called banqueting course, a particularly elaborate, artful and expensive part of a court banquet in which the most varied forms of confectionery, baked goods and jams were presented in carefully planned structures. Finely crafted, small-format edible sculptures made of marzipan and icing were shown and eaten, often imitating the dishes eaten in previous courses (C. Anne Wilson, Banquetting Stuffe’: The Fare and Social Background of the Tudor and Stuart Banquet 1991 and Roy Strong, Feast: A History of Grand Eating 2002).

The meaning of the word pranketing has been translated both with the English word to prank for decorating in an eye-catching, colorful and splendid way, and with the Dutch word proncken as an expression for proud display: “prank (…) to decorate (…) in a gay, bright, or showy manner “(Duggan 2003). The name might be a combination of the words banqueting and pranking or proncken.

Jan Saenredam after Hendrik Goltzius, Banquet Scene (Vespera), after 1595, Engraving, 228 x 181 mm, London, British Museum

Another reading of the word prank already used in the early modern period was that of cunning, joke, and slight of hand: “a trick, a knack, a device, a slight, a conceit (…) a foolish trick (…) or a ludicrous trick “(Samuel Johnson, Johnson’s Dictionary: A Modern Selection 1963). Walter Raleigh uses the word in his History of the World, 1614: “Whereupon they caused the table to be covered and meat set on; which was no sooner set down than that presently in came the harpies, and played their accustomed pranks.”John Florios A World of Words, or Most Copious, and Exact Dictionarie in Italian and English of 1598, gives another hint, translating the Italian tiro as prank.

Jokes and deceits were an important aspect of the banqueting course, with a focus on the pleasure of artfully reproduced objects, scenes, dishes and even complete architectural complexes (Peter Brears, Rare Conceites and Strange Delightes: The Practical Aspects of Culinary Sculpture 1991).


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