Sevso and Casena Hunting Plates (Late 4th Century)

Sevso and Casena Hunting Plates (Late 4th Century)

The Sevso Plate * (27.8 inches in diameter) may also reference a hunting feast describe by the roman writer Philostratus. But the iconography is Christian. The Chi-Rho situated at the apex of the legend on the plate's circumference is a symbol for Jesus Christ...

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Philostratus’s Imagines (250-300 CE)

Philostratus’s Imagines (250-300 CE)

Hunting feasts have a long history. Among the Romans, one such by Philostratus Elder uses the rhetorical device of Ekphrasis, a verbal description of a visual representation, to illustrate a painting he observed in Naples. Ironically, none survive, if they existed at...

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Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield (1959)

Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield (1959)

The big idea in Arrabal's Picnic on the Battlefield is the stupidity of war. * Originally Pique-nique en campagne, the title was changed for American readers. The play is Aligned with the Absurdists, such as Beckett and Ionesco. Arrabal was a founder (among others) of...

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Cristoforo de Predis’s The Garden of Delights (1470c.)

Cristoforo de Predis’s The Garden of Delights (1470c.)

De Predis’ Venus: The garden of delights representing the joyful influence Venus exerts on mortals is an illustration for The Sphere of the Cosmos, De Sphaerae  (1466 or later). The original treatise dating from 1230c describes Venus’ feast day celebrated when Venus...

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Lucas Cranach, the Elder’s The Fountain of Youth (1546)

Lucas Cranach, the Elder’s The Fountain of Youth (1546)

Cranach's paintings often conflate the spiritual and erotic, particularly The Fountain of Youth and The Golden Age, both completed in 1546.  The subjects seem pagan, but his friendship with Martin Luther deeply influenced Cranach. The Fountain of Youth narratives the...

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Oliver Cromwell’s Picnic in Hyde Park (1654)

Oliver Cromwell’s Picnic in Hyde Park (1654)

Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, “picnicked” in Hyde Park in 1654. According to Cromwell's secretary of state Edmund Ludlow, “His highness, only accompanied with secretary Thurloe and some few of his gentlemen and servants, went to take the air in...

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Samuel Pepys’ Diary 1664 & 1667

Samuel Pepys’ Diary 1664 & 1667

Samuel Pepys’ “frolique” is our picnic was a favorite way for him to spend an afternoon with friends idling. We know this from his Diary, a frank glimpse of his personal and professional lives, begun when he was thirty-seven and continued for the next decade. Among...

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Crispijn de Passe’s Picnic in New Mirror for Youth (1617)

Crispijn de Passe’s Picnic in New Mirror for Youth (1617)

Early in the 16th century, the Dutch had no specific word for that is our picnic's equivalent. but their paintings and emblem books primers or handbooks for  youthful aristocrats show a keen fondness for alfresco entertainments that are unmistakably Among the more...

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Alexandre Dumas’  The Three Musketeers (1844)

Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844)

Among battlefield picnics, The Three Musketeers sets the pattern for sardonic humor. It’s meant as yet another instance of the Musketeers’ bravado. Still, Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet (his co-author) add comic relief to the serious Siege of La Rochelle and the...

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Leonid Andreyev’s  The Red Laugh (1904)

Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh (1904)

Leonid Andreyev’s The Red Laugh is an antiwar horror story about Russia’s war in Manchuria. The novel is constantly downbeat, and each of its chapters is a fragment, the first of which begins “Horror and Madness.” The picnic happens after soldiers on the front lines...

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General Slocum Picnic Disaster (1891)

General Slocum Picnic Disaster (1891)

Searching for the joy and peace of a picnic doesn’t always mean it’s attainable. One thousand congregants of St. Mark's Lutheran Church boarded the steamship General Slocum, at its birth on the East River in lower Manhattan and died. They expected a pleasant journey...

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Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods (1514)

Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods (1514)

Giovanni Bellini was eighty-five(?) and in failing health, when Alfonso d'Este his wife Lucrezia Borgia, commissioned a scene intended for their Alabaster Chamber, Camerino d'alabastro. They requested, too, that the subject must be delightfully worldly and sensual....

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Lennart Anderson’s Idylls (1955-2015)

Lennart Anderson’s Idylls (1955-2015)

Anderson series of Idylls are picnicky, filled with people happily dancing and singing on the grass. He called the first Bacchanal and the other Idylls. In an interview, Anderson referenced Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté as a modern arcadian idyll but does not...

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D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1922)

D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1922)

A Aaron Sissons, the protagonist of  Lawrence's Aaron's Rod, leaves his wife and three young children to find himself. He’s unsuccessful. The "rod" is his flute, which he plays well enough to earn a modest living. It is also a pun on his cloudy sexuality, and his need...

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Laura Knight’s Picnics (1907-1912)

Laura Knight’s Picnics (1907-1912)

Knight developed her style while at the Lamorna Art Colony in west Cornwall.  She was nineteen years old and married to Harold Knight. Among more experienced artists and in congenial surroundings, she realized the freedom of expression and technique throughout her...

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John Leech’s Awful Appearance of Wopps at a Picnic (1849)

Knowing that any picnic might dissolve in chaos when attacked by a flying critter, readers of Punch, Britain’s premier satirical magazine, laughed at Leech’s mock tragedy. They might have also smiled patronizingly at the verbal pun “wopps,” the Cockney pronunciation...

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Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915)

Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out (1915)

Woolf’s picnic on the summit of Monte Rosa, a fictional place in South America, is the high point (pun intended) of The Voyage Out (1915). Journeying on donkeys walking in a single file, the narrator creates the image of “a jointed caterpillar, tufted with the white...

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Walt Disney’s Donald Duck’s Picnic (1939)

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck’s Picnic (1939)

At first, Donald Duck’s beach picnic is a pleasant outing. Donald and Pluto set up on the beach for a perfect day. Donald plants an umbrella for shade and spreads a blanket for food. Expectations are high. It doesn’t last, as usual. The picnic turmoil is classic....

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James Gillray  and the Pic Nics (1801-1803)

James Gillray and the Pic Nics (1801-1803)

­Picnic, the English phonetic spelling of pique-nique, owes its introduction in English parlance to the Pic Nics, a London club that had a brief run from 1801-1803. We remember the Pic Nics now mainly because James Gillray lampooned and mocked them. We remember that...

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John Byng’s The Torrington Diaries (1792)

John Byng’s The Torrington Diaries (1792)

Among his many adventures traipsing about England, John Byng was proud of picnicking on the far side of High Force though the experience was miserably wet. After spending an uncomfortable night in an inn, Byng hired a guide. Then, stuffing his pockets with eatables,...

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Frederick Henry Townsend’s Zeppelin Picnic (1915)

Frederick Henry Townsend’s Zeppelin Picnic (1915)

Even after zeppelin attacks on London in May and June, Brits are undeterred and cannot refrain from picnicking even under threat of being gassed. Acid satire by F.H. Townsend. Featured Image: Even under threat of attack, Upper-class Brits cannot refrain from...

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Michael Bond’s Paddington at the Sea-Side (1975)

Michael Bond’s Paddington at the Sea-Side (1975)

Paddington at the Seaside begins: "Today," said Mr. Brown at breakfast one bright, summer morning, "feels like the kind of day for taking a young bear to the sea-side. Hands up all those who agree." So, the Browns pack up the motorcar and drive off. Wearing his...

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Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote’s Nick-Nack (1772)

Samuel Foote's comic play The Nabob, now obscure, is the first linkage of picnic with the euphemism "nick-nack." He used in the sense of dining en piquenique, which suggests familiarity. The alliterative corruption is meant to be humorous for those in the know of the...

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Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach (1991)

Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach (1991)

Ringgold's tapestry Tar Beach (1988) and her children's story Tar Beach (1991) portray classic rooftop entertainment. When Cassie Lightfoot flies over the rooftops of Harlem, the lights of the George Washington Bridge glow against the black sky like pearls. It's...

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Faith Ringgold’s Church Picnic  (1988)

Faith Ringgold’s Church Picnic (1988)

Faith Ringgold’s Church Picnic Story Quilt (1988)  is a painted quilt that portrays the Freedom Baptist Church Sunday School picnic.  Picnic cloths are spread out on the grass and families sit in separate groups eating the foods they have totted along. The children...

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Jim Crace’s Being Dead (1999)

Jim Crace’s Being Dead (1999)

Crace's combination of an awful  picnic and murder is not your average picnic. But Being Dead's readers often find it so appealing they search for Baritone Bay, the place where the central characters are murdered.  There is no telling where they search because it is...

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John Fowles’s The Ebony Tower (1984)

John Fowles’s The Ebony Tower (1984)

Fowles’s The Ebony Tower bears the imprint of Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. Though we'll never know what Manet's picnickers are discussing, Fowles provides some context and conversation Like Manet's picnickers, Fowles's men are clothed, and the women undressed; one...

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Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield (1959)

Fernando Arrabal’s Picnic on the Battlefield (1959)

The big idea in Arrabal's Picnic on the Battlefield is the stupidity of war. * Originally Pique-nique en campagne, the title was changed for American readers. The play is Aligned with the Absurdists, such as Beckett and Ionesco. Arrabal was a founder (among others) of...

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Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food (1951)

Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food (1951)

David's favorite picnic food is tian. She asserts that it's simple for the experienced cook, especially if you have a tian, the Provençal earthenware casserole it is cooked in. You also need freshly baked bread, butter, cheese, and wine. David's recipe is helpful:...

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Elizabeth David’s Summer Cooking (1955/65)

David's books are suffused with references to picnics. She could be informal or according to her whims, something she adopted from her youth, which she wrote about in Summer Cooking, "Picnic addicts  [like herself] seem to be roughly divided between those who frankly...

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Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose (1971)

Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose (1971)

Stegner uses picnic to contradict the expectation of the good times the word usually denotes. According to her grandson Lyman Ward, who is writing her life story, Susan Burling’s marriage to Oliver Ward was no picnic. She gave up a promising career as an illustrator...

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May Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  (1969)

May Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)

Angelou fondly recalls the “summer picnic fish-fry” with characteristic high spirits. As narrated in her fictionalized memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou explains this was the biggest outdoor event of the year” in the African American Stamps, Arkansas....

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Agatha Christie’s Poems  (1973)

Agatha Christie’s Poems (1973)

Casual readers usually neglect Christie's poems, but her inner life is there and not Marple's or Poirot's. "Picnic 1960" suggests Christie never lost her sense of her good life. In the final poem of the volume, Christie makes the case that she has tender feelings...

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Michel Leiris’s Manhood: A Journey (1946)

Manhood: A Journey, L’Age d’homme, is Leiris’s autobiographical exposé of trying to make sense of his emerging Manhood. Among his revelations is that he got his first erection at a family picnic in a Paris park. He was six or seven years old, and  at the time, he...

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Pablo Picasso’s After Luncheon on the Grass (1962)

Pablo Picasso’s After Luncheon on the Grass (1962)

Among Picasso variations of Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe is a large sculpture of disunited figures. Great blobs of concrete, ironically, sitting on the Grass. But there is no lunch, no food, no picnic. Among Picasso's artistic aims was to make beautiful things...

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Picnic Quotes

“I once mentioned to a young lady that I thought a pic-nic party would be very agreeable, and that I would propose it to some of our friends. She agreed that it would be delightful, but she added, “I fear you will not succeed; we are not used to such sort of things here, and I know it is considered very indelicate for ladies and gentlemen to sit down together on the grass.’”  Frances Trollope. Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832)