Work of Art: A Man Scraping Chocolate
A Man Scraping Chocolate
circa 1680-1780
Oil on canvas
41 x 28 in. (104.1 x 71.1 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Cone

Spanish conquistadors brought chocolate from the New World to Europe in the early sixteenth century. Chocolate was first enjoyed in Europe as a drink, made by grating chocolate paste into wine or water sweetened with sugar and flavored with vanilla and various spices. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, hot chocolate was a favorite drink of people of all social classes in Spain.

This engaging image shows a young man kneeling as he scrapes a large slab of chocolate. The scraping is done on a metate, a type of grinding stone widely used by natives of Mexico and Guatemala for grinding corn and probably, like chocolate, introduced into Spain from the New World. Below the stone, a small container holds a fire producing heat to soften the hard chocolate so that it can be ground more easily. The large bowl in the foreground contains some of the ground material, and before it, patties of chocolate rest in a wooden container and on a letter or document. The writing is largely indecipherable, although there are fragments of Spanish words, such as casa (house) at the lower left.

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