Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Campbell's Artful Tureens the Soup Company Exhibits Its Ornate Wares, Many from Royal Homes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Campbell's Artful Tureens the Soup Company Exhibits Its Ornate Wares, Many from Royal Homes

Article excerpt

BEFORE BMWs, there were soup tureens.

People have likely sipped soup for millennia, but beginning with the Baroque period they found a way to make it frivolous and fashionable all at once.

Even cream of mushroom would muster some pizazz in the vessels on display at the Boston Athenaeum Gallery, where the Campbell (yes, the "mmm ... mmm good" folks) Museum is exhibiting part of its collection of 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century tureens.

At first glance, it seems that soup has found popularity primarily when times are lean - or when people wish to be leaner. Campbell's exhibition, however, titled "Kings, Queens and Soup Tureens," aims to convince the viewer that soup was once - and can be - more than the ultimate sustenance food.

Catherine Magee, director of the Campbell Museum in Camden, N. J., asserts that while the contents of the bowl have changed over the centuries (swan soup is now a rarity), "the relevance of soup to the meal remains the same today," she says, as in the time "of kings and queens."

Consequently, in dedication to the trustworthy staple, the Campbell Museum's permanent collection also includes contemporary tureens as well as antique pieces such as those shown at the Athenaeum, and any work of art associated with the service of soup.

Comprehensiveness deserves congratulations; yet art for art's sake is not quite at play here. The rare tureens serve as an unmistakable advertisement for Campbell wherever they are shown.

Nonetheless, one cannot begrudge the company credit for amassing such delightful examples of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassic decorative art. The relatively small number of tureens on display at the Athenaeum is more than offset by the intrinsic elegance of each piece and by the care with which the exhibit was arranged.

From the austere, classic lines of a Polish silver tureen from the 19th century, one might gather that stew had to have been a dignified affair. …

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