subject dear to my fanciful heart, I have long been interested in
examining wine and its place in images, both in pictoral and sculptoral form. Like classical music,
I tend to look upon wine when accompanied by other creative mediums in
very sympathetic terms. This is probably because wine and artistry
seems to go hand in hand, as the former is, in itself, a form of
On this webpage then, it is my intention to explore some of the ways in
which certain artists and their works are able to capture the creative
finery espoused by the 'institution of wine.' I have little doubt that this exercise ought to yield some fantastic rewards.
WINE AND ART IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
To the benefit of posterity, it does seem clear that various peoples in this case, artists and craftspersons
of ancient times (such as those of 'Greece' and Rome) were engaged in the representation of wine as a
creative, artistic form. This can be most visibly seen via the mediums
of images by which wine was presented on pottery, statues/sculptures, and images.
Let us examine these mediums:
all the ancient civilizations of human history, it
would appear that those of 'Greece' carry some of the most prestigious
pottery design. Left behind in wonderful
scores, many of these works detail the esteem with which
the ancient Greeks seem to have held the enjoyment of wine. Perhaps the
notable of these wine-related pottery images are those
illustrating the practice of the 'symposium,' which, in a nutshell, was
a light-night wine drinking party (beginning around the fifth century
BCE) usually involving philosophical
discussion. On the pottery image to the right, two participants can be
reclining on sofas, with the one on the very right drinking wine from a
cup called a 'cylix.' On the left, a slave can be seen pouring wine into a
cylix from the main bowl, which was called a 'krater.' As one can
clearly see, these images were done by an artist of notable skill, who
was undoubtedly aware that his customers, no doubt wealthier individuals, were interested in procuring
pottery wares with images fancily depicting scenes involving wine on them.
Statues/Scuptures --- Generally
speaking, though most of the famous white marble statues resting in the
world's greatest museums had been created in Roman times, most were
(believe it or not) actually copies of Greek originals. Of these, there
are a good number of
that depict the most famous 'wine god'
to have (arguably) ever existed: Bacchus (or Dionysus, in Greek). Even
the Greeks, the Romans were very much of a wine-drinking culture, with
their actual consumption of wine (in terms of quality) based on an
extremely class-driven hierarchy. To the right, a second-century CE
Bacchus can be seen with a bunch of grapes in one hand and a cup in
another, dignified and youthful. To the left, a wall-sculpture of the
wine-god illustrates a much different version, in which Bacchus is
shown in a truly frenzied-like state. And yet, despite the differences
in the two works, one can clearly see that an incredible level of skill
was required in the actual creation of these magnificent pieces.
the ancient world (dating back to even the earliest of prehistoric
times), modern archaeologists have been fortunate
enough to happen upon all sorts
of paintings related to wine. Among the more interesting of such items
are those that have been uncovered in the ruins of Pompeii (which was
burried in the erruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE and rediscovered in
instance, the image to the right comes from one of the walls of "The
House of Vetti," and
it shows several Cupids engaged in various steps of making wine. It is quite a beautiful picture.
WINE AND ART IN THE MIDDLE AGES
days, among modern scholars and amateur enthusiasts of art, alike,
there is an ever-increasing realization that the works of art created
during the so-called 'Middle Ages' (or 'Medieval Period') of human
history though seemingly 'underdeveloped' and/or 'reductive in technical skill' at first glance boast all sorts of extraordinary significances.
Concerning our present subject of examining wine and art, the Middle
Ages offers several fascinating examples of the extent to which various
peoples centuries ago held the importance of wine. Once again,
let us review some of the mediums under which artistic images of wine
Images of monks and wine
--- Throughout the Middle Ages (c. 400-1400 CE), modern scholars have
come to realize that monastic orders were among the most important
groups engaged in the
cultivation of wine. And, though scarce, we have several images dating
back to this period. Dating from the 13th century, the image to the
right shows a Benedictine monk engaged in the partaking of a few jugs (monks were well known to be liberal drinkers).
Images of peasants and wine
--- To this day, many scholars would argue there is a sort-of 'peasant
mentality' when it comes to the craft of viticulture and winemaking.
From the Middle Ages, we have many images depicting peasants engaged in
winegrowing (and winemaking) activities.
MORE COMING VERY SOON
WINE AND ART IN THE RENAISSANCE
the Renaissance (c. 1350-1600), artistic creativity had achieved
heights which had never and have never since been realized. Concerning wine, of the many brilliant works created in this period, we are
able to discover an exquisite collection of works illustrating the
level of regard with which 'the institution of wine' had been held.
Now, because there is such an extraordinary amount of material to
examine from this period, it is necessary for us to confine our
analysis to very specific mediums, from paintings (on a canvas) to sculptoral design.
Thus, if I, the author, have left anything out, please keep in mind
that it was not unintentional but unavoidable.
Wine and paintings
--- At the height of the Renaissance, the human ability to paint
had reached (at least in the eyes of many modern art scholars) a sort
of climax that has never since been repeated. Granted, only a tiny
percentage of Renaissance paintings relate specifically to wine; and
yet those that incorporate wine into their totality are, quite frankly,
truly brilliant marvels. Above, we see a painting of
Michelangelo, done on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A sight for
sore eyes, the people of the Renaissance realized both the merits and
potential downfalls that wine can bring, not so dissimilar from today.
Wine and frescos
--- Although it is not exactly a simple task to locate them, the
Renaissance has left us many examples of wine being included as a
component on frescos. As expected, the majority of such illustrations
can be found in churches. On the right is a scene from The Life of
Christ painted by Giotto at the Arena Chapel in Padua. Begun in 1305,
this particular image illustrates The Marriage at Cana, where Christ is
said to have miraculously transformed water into wine. Reasonably
enough, we can infer from this image that the people of the Renaissance
age were accustomed to the notion of having wine with a meal (instead
of water, which would often have been contaminated).
WINE AND ART IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD
enormous period to cover, to say the least, the Early Modern Period (c.
1500-1800, taking overlap into serious account) can be one of the most
fascinating periods to examine when looking at the inseparable
relationship between wine and art.
over Europe (particularly in the Low Countries), artists were
exploring seemingly-brand-new approaches to interpreting the world in
which they lived, breaking away from purely religious (and,
associatively, oftentimes political) depictions to portraying persons
and events in more personalized, realistic fashions (*though what I
have just stated here will undoubtedly be chewed up and spat out by far
greater experts on art in the Early Modern Period than I ... I just
love wine ... cut me a break!*).
Joannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
--- By the time Vermeer got to painting, real-life (often domestic)
depictions seem to have been a popular theme. Seen in the painting
above-right, wine was most definitely the drink of choice (along with beer)
for a typical middle class household of, in this case, Holland. From
this image, it would seem that the woman is sitting down to an
afternoon meal, encouraged to drink her wine by the male, who is
perhaps a lover (after all, a few drinks can lead to 'naughty things').
Notice that the wine appears to be white, served in a very small glass? An apéritif, perhaps?
MORE COMING VERY SOON
WINE AND ART IN THE 19TH CENTURY
From the looks of things, artists of the nineteenth century
(particularly in the latter decades) had few reservations about
incorporating all things related to wine in their artistic endeavors. A
(personally) favourite period of mine, the many wine-related artistic
works of the late-nineteenth century seem to confirm the extent to
which wine and art are, at least in my mind, fundamentally inseparable
WINE AND NINETEENTH-CENTURY PAINTINGS
Because there are so many wine-and-art paintings, it would probably be
best if this particular portion of my webpage is divided by artists.
That way, we can see if there are any noteworthy features (such as
themes, commonalities, and styles) to each artist's incorporation of
wine into their works. Here are a few of the artists whose
wine-inclusive paintings I have come across (at least thus far):
Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
--- As shown in the painting above-right, Manet had few qualms about
incorporating wine into his paintings. In the image above, I would
argue that the glass of wine is meant to add weight to a convivial and
a care-free atmosphere. Notice that the wine the man is drinking is
white and not red? Was this done on purpose? For whatever reason Manet
had in mind, a cool glass of white wine - enjoyed in an outside café
on a lovely day - imparts (at least in this painting, it would seem) a
mood of relaxation and joviality, as a man and a woman smile at one
another, without a care in the world.
MORE COMING VERY SOON
WINE AND ART IN MODERN TIMES
the twenty-first century, the association of wine and art has arguably
become a recognized institution unto itself. On an ever-increasing
scale, wineries (not to mention modern-day artists) have come to wholly
embrace the notion that wine and art are virtually inseparable. Put simply, long gone are the days
when Pauillac estate Château Mouton-Rothschild was practically the only world-renowned
winery to employ artists in the promotion of its wines. These days,
there are scores of high-profile wineries who commission
artists (most of which, by the way, are only too happy to oblige) to
promote their wines.
To continue, because the proliferation of wine-art works in the
twenty-first century has been so enormous, it is all but impossible for
me to offer a proper summerization of it as a whole on a single
webpage. And yet, I will do my best to attempt to identify the
different establishments (ex. wineries) and individual persons who have
made the greatest impact on wine and art in modern times.
Wine and Art at Château Mouton-Rothschild---
For wine enthusiasts, there is no other winery in the world that is
better known (at least historically) for combining wine with art than Château
Mouton-Rothschild. Since 1945, when the first artist-designed label was
done by Philippe Jullian (as shown above-right), the Mouton estate has
different artist every year to design the label for their 'Grand Vin.'
Able to attract the some of the most famous artists of the day, many of
the Mouton labels are as every bit thought-provoking as they are
brilliant. The first 1945 label (above-left) was done to commemorate
the conclusion of the world's most deadliest war (it just so happened
to be a huge bonus that '45 proved to be one of the finest vintages of
the twentieth century).