Wine and the Arts: a dialogue from Antiquity to the present day
Everyone now agrees that wine is a major cultural object. Since its most distant origins, over 6,000 years before the birth of Christ, it has always occupied an important position in both European and Mediterranean civilisations. It has left a rich cultural heritage going far beyond folk art and popular customs. The Muses’ companion, wine has been represented through many different art forms: fine and decorative arts, literature and even music. In every case, wine is an essential witness to our social and cultural history. While the Virtual Wine Museum is primarily concerned with painting, certain examples taken from other art forms also illustrate this fact. Such is the case with this tapestry, The Grape Harvest, dating from the start of the 16th century, previously on display in the Musée National du Moyen-Age, also known as the Musée du Cluny. This tapestry is not currently viewable because the medieval building’s two floors are under renovation until spring 2021.
Tapestry, Southern Netherlands, first quarter of the 16th century - Musée National du Moyen-Âge (Musée de Cluny), Paris
This tapestry shows the different stages of winemaking, from the picking and treading of the grapes to the first tasting of the product. The scenes take place against a floral background, which nonetheless leaves room for a simple representation of a vine and trellis. The atmosphere of this tapestry is relaxed; people of different social classes are shown working side by side. If the grape-treading scene on the right is shown on a conventional mille-fleurs background, the harvest scene on the right is evoked in a much more naturalistic way, alluding to an idealized pastoral landscape (source: Musée du Moyen-Age). The tasting will take place beneath the trellis, where we can see several large goblets. The product to be tested is unfermented grape juice, not wine, but this process is important because it will reveal the quality and ripeness of that year’s grapes. After all, 'you reap what you sow'!. Comme il est dit, "on cueille son vin".