The ‘Muses’ companion since Antiquity, wine has been represented through many different art forms, such as literature, music and photography, as well as architecture, decorative and fine arts. Wine seems to have been a particular source of fascination for painters.
LUNCHEON OF THE BOATING PARTY
Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
The Phillips Collection, Washington DC
Wine takes centre stage in this painting by Renoir. Placed at the heart of the action, wine plays an active role and contributes to the painting’s happy, serene atmosphere. The people in the painting are shown as happy to be together and enjoying the delights of friendship. Duncan Phillips describes this work as 'overflowing with contagious good humour'.
Artists, especially painters, have always acted as commentators. Vine and wine have been part of our social, cultural, religious, political and economic history throughout the ages. By telling their history, these artists help us better understand our own.
>> THEMATIC TOUR: 5 COLLECTIONS, 33 PAINTING GALLERIES
While painting – canvases, frescoes and illuminations – takes centre-stage, the Virtual Wine Museum also exhibits many other art forms. It’s the museum of the “Wine of the Arts”, telling great history of vine and wine from Antiquity to the present day.
Let us suggest the following route around the museum: Wine and the Arts to whet your appetite, the Focus: a look, a work to awaken your senses and the Gallery Collections to taste at your leisure or by following the guided tour below and at the bottom of the page. If you are pressed for time, why not take a quick trip around The Virtual Wine Museum’s selected highlights?
Wine-drinkers, Painters bear witness
Les Wine-drinkers have been portrayed by every kind of artist, and by great masters as well as more minor painters. One of these painters, Manet (who played a significant role in the representation of wine in art) believed that art should reflect life. Wine, when represented on canvas, is no exception to this rule.
Such images are documentary, journalistic: they tell us the role played by wine in all walks of life, without exceptions. Daily life, social life, drunkenness and savoir-boire. Wine has been used as a social marker...
THE BROTHERS CLARKE WITH OTHER GENTLEMEN TAKING WINE
Gawen Hamilton, between 1730 and 1735 - Yale University, New Haven, CT, US
Like physical museums, virtual museums aim to promote culture and to make it accessible for everyone. André Malraux’s ‘imaginary museum’ or ‘the museum without walls’ (as it is often translated) is closer than ever before, thanks to new technological formats. Malraux' imaginary museum has become a virtual museum >>
In the same way The Virtual Wine Museum offers a new perspective on the knowledge of wine and its history, especially social history. The Virtual Wine Museum is a non-profit venture. Open to all, it aims to be an international point of reference, both a historical and educational goldmine for enthusiasts and students, and an accessible, easy-to-understand site for the general public.
It is a recognized reference site. It has been selected in 2020 by the jury of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), who have given it a Special Mention in their Fine Arts category. The museum is also a member of the network of partners of the international Chair on “Wine Culture and Traditions” at the University of Burgundy.
SEVEN WORKS OF MERCY: FEED THE HUNGRY, GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY Domenico Ghirlandaio (School of), after restoration, 1478/81 - Oratorio dei Buonimi di San Martino, Florence, Italy
A new perspective on the history of wine
Georges-Henri Rivière, founder and creator of the Beaune Wine Museum and the National Museum of Folk Art and Tradition, liked to say that 'the importance of a museum cannot be measured in terms of visitor numbers, but by the number of visitors who have learned something there.' Not to mention the number of visitors who come back. For virtual museums, this is truer than ever. We hope that you enjoy your visit.
Could this harvest scene have really taken place?
Van Gogh painted two landscapes featuring vines in oils –The Green Vine and The Red Vine – during his period in Arles, where he lived from 20th February 1888. The Red Vine is one of the artist’s best-known paintings, and often said to be the only one sold in his lifetime – in February 1890. He produced a harvest scene in late October, near Arles, depicting red vines. This is decidedly odd: Arles is in a Mediterranean region, a harvest by that time is still terribly late. Usually, the grape harvest takes place before the vines turn red. There is a plethora of grape-pickers – twenty-one! Night has almost fallen. What to make of this harvest scene? Could it have really taken place as Van Gogh depicts it, so late in the year? Let’s examine the evidence in Van Gogh’s Letters to his brother Théo...
Wines and Liqueurs / Sacks of Coal, 12 rue des Lyonnais, Paris, 5th arrondissement Eugène Atget, 1914 - MoMA, New York
Eugène Atget takes us on a stroll around “Vieux Paris”. Wandering from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, we’re on the hunt for wine merchants, bars, cabarets, cafés and restaurants – like this bougnat's shop (Auvergnat living in Paris), where wines and liquors jostle firewood and sacks of coal. Atget’s obstinate desire to lay reality bare makes him the grandfather of modern photography.
Still on display: the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam accompanies our display of Persian miniatures. Wine, frequently mentioned in Khayyam’s verses, is presented as a cure for melancholy and even the elixir of life. Two other exhibitions focus on art of today. Burgundy-based abstract painter Bertrand Sallard gives us his take on the tasks of the “vine to wine” process dictated by the seasons. Meanwhile, our Street Art exhibition shows Bacchus and wine taking over the urban landscape.
NEOLITHIC JAR RECOVERED FROM A NEOLITHIC SITE IN GEORGIA © Georgian National Museum
Scientists agree that vinification was first practised in the Caucuses, since the 19th century considered the homeland of vine cultivation. Georgia has confirmed its position as the birthplace of viticulture with some new archaeological discoveries. Winegrowing originated over 8,000 years ago, almost ten decades earlier than previously thought. Before the announcement, the earliest evidence of viticulture – dating from around 5,000 BC – had been found in Iran’s Zagros mountains. Residue found in eight large ceramic containers had been identified as wine by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the Georgian National Museum and the University of Toronto. This discovery is the earliest evidence of winemaking by humans to date.
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DIONYSIAC ECTASY Roman sarcophagus, 2nd century, from Perga, ancient Greek city in Anatolia - Archaeological Museum, Antalya, Turkey
What's new at The Virtual Wine Museum?
This scene of ecstasy depicts satyrs and Maenads, Bacchus’ usual companions. Satyrs are ambivalent creatures, part-man and part-stag, who live out in the wild. They make up the “Dionesic procession” accompanying the god and are associated with the Maenads, who follow on behind. The latter are not priestesses, but play an important role in religion and worship. They participate in the mysteries and festivals held in honour of the god. Personifying the orgiastic spirits of nature, they dance frenetically, plunging themselves into mystic ecstasy. The Bacchantes (the Roman name for the Maenads) were said to behave like ferocious beasts.
Some new works, restored works, and works reproduced in better and accurate quality
CAFE SCENE, "LES HALLES", PARIS Robert Doisneau, 1953
BACCHUS, VENUS AND ARIADNE Tintoretto, 1576 - Palazzo Ducale, Sala dell'Anticollegio, Venice
DIVINE WINEPRESS Anonymous, Andes mountains 1700/1800 - Museo Pedro de Osma, Barranco district, Peru
A BOY SEATED AT A TABLE, SMOKING Arnold Boonen, 1690s - Private collection
WINE CONNOISSEUR Friedrich Wahlen, ca. 1927 - Private collection
BEARDED MAN WITH A CROWN OF LEAVES AND VINES Pablo Picasso, 1962, linoleum cut - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
DIONYSOS AND ARIADNE (with a rhyton) Pompei, 1-79 - Villa Getty, Los Angeles
STILL LIFE WITH BOTTLE Umberto Boccioni, 1912 - Centre Pompidou, Paris
NEBAMUN RECEIVING WINE A.D. 1916; original ca. 1390–1349 B.C. Valley of TheNobles, Theban Necropolis, Egypt - Met, New York
FRANCE-CHAMPAGNE Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1891 - MoMA, New York
Les affiches sont des témoins de l'histoire du vin, de la vigne et des vignerons. Designed to be displayed in the street and other public places, they are used for advertising and propaganda. The end of the 19th century was the ‘golden age’ of posters, with artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec. Aged just 23, Bonnard produced a masterpiece with this poster commissioned by the France-Champagne brand. “Everyone is asking me for my poster,” he wrote to his mother. Félix Fénéon, future editor of La Revue Blanche, wrote “the first printed poster to joyfully shine from our walls since Daumier… It signals a renewal in the art of printing – in that art that Toulouse-Lautrec will push to the limits of refinement and mastery.” This iconic poster meets the expectations of modern advertising: a simple, readable image which draws the eye with a visual shock. The focal point of the poster is the bubbling glass of champagne. The young woman seems to be coming out of it, sparkling like the wine, and the sunshine-yellow background reflects its color. Champagne is once again presented as a symbol of celebration and pleasure, of joie de vivre.
Les photos "documentaires" ancrent dans le réel en apportant également leur témoignage. Quatre thèmes le confirment sans conteste : le transport du vin, la crise viticole de 1907, le pinard des poilus de la Grande Guerre de 1914 à 1918 et la Prohibition de 1920 à 1933 aux Etats-Unis.
L'histoire du vin, les découvertes archéologiques, le langage et les mots du vin ; les mouvements dans la peinture, les musées du monde, le langage et les mots de la peinture: autant de repères à connaître sur le vin >>
1 - PRUNING Manuscript made for Edward IV, king of England and lord of Irelandand, ca. 1478/80 - British Library, London
Our tweets illustrated with miniatures easily take the lead. Images of miniatures and manuscripts certainly give us greater insight into life in the Middle Ages, especially in terms of the peasants’ labour over the course of the agricultural year. The iconographic theme of the calendar allows this to be depicted fully. In the 12th and 13th centuries, representations of the months featuring peasants at work figured in church décor, appearing on doorways, column heads and stained glass windows. It was also from this period that calendars began to adorn many liturgical texts. Although representations of work by month dwindled in the 14th and 15th centuries, appearing only on a few secular buildings, such images continued to decorate prayer books. By adopting pagan imagery already embedded in Greco-Roman Antiquity, the Church and its theologians gave a new sense to these scenes: that of Man, after the fall of Adam and Eve, suffering work as both a punishment and a means to redemption.
Vine cultivation boomed in the Middle Ages. The liturgical and symbolic importance of wine to the Christian world, like that of bread, gave it a choice position in the culture’s iconography. The trimming of the vines in February or March, crucial for future production, is one of the most common motifs, especially in calendars.