Butter sculptures often depict animals, people, buildings and other objects. They are best known as attractions at state fairs in the United States as lifesize cows and people, but can also be found on banquet tables and even small decorative butter pats.
The history of carving food into sculptured objects is ancient. Archaeologists have found bread and pudding moulds of animal and human shapes at sites from Babylon to Roman Britain. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods moulding food was commonly done for wealthy banquets. It was during this period that the earliest known reference to a butter sculpture is found. In 1536 Bartolomeo Scappi, cook to Pope Pius V, organised a feast composed of nine scenes elaborately carved out of food, each carried in episodically as centerpieces for a banquet.
The earliest butter sculpture as public art and not a banquet centerpiece can be traced to the 1876 when Caroline Shawk Brooks [Image Four], a farm woman from Arkansas, displayed her Dreaming Iolanthe, a bust of a woman modeled in butter [Image One]. The heyday of butter sculpting was from about 1890 to 1930. During this period refrigeration became widely available, and the American dairy industry began promoting butter sculpture as a way to compete against synthetic butter substitutes like margarine. Image Two depicts a 1925 butter sculpture of Edward VIII when Prince of Wales, about which you can read more here.
[Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]