José de Ribera's personification of Taste (c. 1615), part of a set of paintings depicting The Five Senses, has gained fame for its vivid, earthy depiction of a man and his meal. This essay attempts to situate Taste in the social milieu of its time, paying attention to the human figure in relation to the foodstuffs arranged before him. It briefly explores the man's physical type, pose, gestures, and clothing; the fare displayed on the table; the impact of the cost of food in Rome on various social classes; and the place of the image within artistic representations of the Five Senses. Surprisingly, Ribera deviated from traditional alimentary symbols of Taste by including a number of culinary conundrums. Wine, olives, and bread present no problems, but there also appears a prominent plate of food that has never been conclusively identified. Moreover, two additional items on the table remain a mystery. Therefore, consideration is limited here to the figure in conjunction with the comestibles that are easily recognized and the sheer quantity of the unknown food in the dish.

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