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Suggestion: Schubert, Piano trio No 2, op. 100, D. 929, Andante con moto (1827)

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.



Domenico Ghirlandaio (School of), after restoration, 1478/81 - Oratorio dei Buonimi di San Martino, Florence, Italy

It was already recognizing that wine was a staple product. It was used to fight the cold in winter and to cool off in summer. But it was much more than a simple drink: restoring strength and energy, wine was considered a real food with a high calorific value and a carrier of many mineral salts. Finally, water in the Middle Ages was hardly drinkable, it was necessary to cut it with wine.

Artists, especially painters, have always acted as commentators. Wine and the Vine 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.



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 5,000 years of history of wine and the vine 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?


Take a quick tour of 30 selected works  >>

Wine-drinkers, Painters bear witness

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... 


Gawen Hamilton, between 1730 and 1735 - Yale University, New Haven, CT, US

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'.

A new perspective on the history of wine

Like physical museums, virtual museums aim to promote culture and to make it accessible for everyone. Their aptitude for this all the greater because they are able to create the very type of "imaginary museum" imagined by André Malraux in (Le Musée imaginaire): “Today, [we] have colour reproductions of most great works at our disposition… [We] discover a great number of secondary paintings… An Imaginary Museum has opened, which will push to breaking point the incomplete confrontation imposed by real museums…  I call “Imaginary Museum” the totality of what people can know today even without entering a museum." Malraux’s prediction has come true; indeed, it’s gone far beyond even his far-sighted vision: new digital technologies have dissociated photography and its digital platform, and have promoted the massive sharing of top-quality digital images.

With The Virtual Wine Museum, we are able to visit an "Imaginary Museum", not an ephemeral product of the imagination, but a significant collection of artworks. Confrontations are widely permitted and practiced, be they within a single theme, between artists, or from one era to another. In the same way The Virtual Wine Museum offers a new perspective on the knowledge of wine and its history, its roles and uses.

Malraux' imaginary museum has become a virtual museum  >> 



ˋThanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists […]ʼ - Marcel Proust, Time Regained: In Search of Lost Time, Modern Library Classics

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... 


Focus: a look, a work  >>

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.

Exhibitions >>

For its latest, second edition (almost completed) the Virtual Wine Museum would like to suggest some personal highlights of its collections and exhibitions. This selection will evolve over time and reflect new inspirations. Check back regularly for our favourite works of each era: Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the modern era.

> Discover the full works by clicking on the icons. Click on the link displayed to visit the original galleries.

ANTIQUITY: from the emergence of writing in Mesopotamia towards 3600 BC to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.

MIDDLE AGES: from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD to the discovery of America and the taking of Granada by the royal armies of Aragon and Castile, which both took place in 1492.

MODERN ERA: started with the taking of Granada and the discovery of America in 1492 and continues to the present day.

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.

Blog (Fr.): Wine, Art, and Museum News | Works to know  >>

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.

Vine and the Wine in Sculpture  >>

Some new works, restored works, and works reproduced in better and accurate quality


The "documentary" photos ground us in reality while adding their own viewpoint. Four themes confirm this beyond dispute: the transportation of wine, the wine-growers’ crisis of 1907, the Prohibition period (1920-33) in the USA, and the poilus' plonk of the 1914-18 Great War.

The chronic overproduction of wine at the start of the 20th century would end up being absorbed by the “poilus”. The war began on 3rd August 1914 and, before the month was even over, the wine producers of the south of France had donated 200,000 hectolitres to soldiers headed for the front. The wine consumed by the poilus kept up the soldiers’ morale by giving them heart, and helping them fight their fear. For Christophe Lucand, « it soon became essential that the men hold on. The military authorities were haunted by previous defeats – that of 1870 and the disasters that followed. They feared a break in the front line.” Here, in a village won back from the enemy, a truck distributes the precious drink.

While « pinard », or cheap wine, is most often associated with the WW1 “poilus”, it was served to soldiers long before this in several North-Eastern regiments. Colonial troops and the French Navy had been consuming it since 1905 at least. Thus was pinard given to the Marines, who had just absorbed heavy losses on the Nieuport-Dixmude front, in late 1914. They needed courage too!

History of wine, archaelogical discoveries, language and words of wine; painting movements, museums of the world, the language and words of painting: click to find out more (Fr.)  >>

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