“When it was time to eat we sat down. I spread out a serviette over the table and my chair, so fine and with the folded creases so beautifully marked that it crossed my mind to wipe my mouth on the folds of my shirt rather than soil it.” Juan de Zabaleta (c. 1600-1667), El día de fiesta por la tarde.
Salto de línea In Cervantes’ day there would have been no room kept specifically for eating in except in the great houses , where as well as the tables there were sumptuous tiered dressers or sideboards to display the silver plate, the pride and joy of the rich. The table could be set up wherever it was required. Families did not always eat together, and it was common to use the same room for eating and sleeping. Neither the literature nor the paintings of the time depict dining rooms as we understand them nowadays, but rather just ‘meals’ and thanks to the still-life paintings we can see what tables were like at all the different levels of society. Except in cheap eating houses, tables are set with white tablecloths, and the richer the table, the more beautifully ironed these are with sharp creases at the folds. On them can be seen serving platters with food, smaller earthenware and metal plates, bowls, goblets, metal cutlery, salt cellars and sugar bowls, glassware for drinking and fruit bowls , bread rolls carefully placed on the napkins, baskets of fruit, little boxes of sweetmeats, jars of compote, dried fruits and nuts.
Although most probably this room was used as the bedchamber for the women, in the present day arrangement it has been kept as the “dining room” which the original creators of the museum furnished in their attempt to dignify the figure of the writer more than to be faithful to the vulgar details of everyday living and certainly based on the objects which appear in the dowry letter of Cervantes’ wife, Catalina de Palacios : (tables, tablecloths of alemanisco cloth and de gusanillo –a common cloth at the time , with a matt-shiny design with squares and zigzags - and some napkins), and in the inventory of Cervantes’ daughter’s dowry : (some silver tableware - spoons, a jug, a salt cellar..). A dresser is also mentioned as well as different tables and chairs. This room is furnished with a fine dresser as well as the dining table and some chairs and arm chairs. The pottery items are reproductions of originals contemporary with Cervantes
This room, with no direct light, formerly had a hatch which gave onto the kitchen, probably in the style of the ambiguous wall openings which in some of the early still-lifes by Velázquez give a glimpse from the kitchen, which is the painter’s main subject, of the adjoining room where some religious scene provides an excuse to justify the painting of the humbler folk.Salto de línea The interior staircase leads to a door which gives onto the landing of the main staircase. The house therefore has two doors and it may be that it was at one time divided into two.Salto de línea