Sugar sculptures of Cybele and Juno (detail), Arnold van Westerhout after Giovanni Battista Lenardi, 1687. From John Michael Wright, An Account of His Excellence Roger Earl of Castlemaine's Embassy . . .(London, 1687), pl. 11. Getty Research Institute, 85-B22893

Royal Cavities: The Bitter Implications of Sugar Consumption in Early Modern Europe


Museum Lecture Hall

This lecture outlines an etiology of sugar in the 16th and 17th centuries and uses it as a starting point to discuss the cultural history of this specific form of "conspicuous consumption" up to the present. The popularity of refined sugar brought with it a considerable increase in tooth disease in the highest circles. Those who consumed sweets continuously and in large quantities were punished by fate with considerable tooth decay. Joseph Imorde is professor of art history at the University of Siegen in Germany.

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