Wine in painting

Art and Culture


The pictorial representation of wine—whether religious or secular, symbolic or figurative—is a common and recurring motif in art history.

Not for nothing does winegrowing predate the concept of art as aesthetic representation. This is why the earliest Paleolithic cave paintings that reference the grape harvest are a kind of chronicle of quotidian life, most likely with a primitive liturgical component as well.

The Ancient World, A World of Wine

The importance of wine culture in ancient civilizations was so great that its representation was a prevalent (and central) motif in various forms of artistic expression.

The remains of Sumerian and Assyrian bas-reliefs narrate the victories of kings and the wine-fuelled celebrations that followed. In Ancient Egypt, the importance of wine accompanied the upper classes and the pharaohs to their graves, immortalized in murals on tombs and palaces.

Ancient Greeks and Romans gave the grapevine and its fruit a face and its own mythology. Dionysus to some, Bacchus to others, these deities were depicted in an abundant and diverse array of figurative ornaments rendered in ceramics or sculpture.

With the arrival of Christianity and its spread across the western world, the pictorial representation of wine took on an essential role in religious iconography. As a result, religious paintings depict different biblical scenes where wine is one of the protagonists.  The Last Supper might be the most emblematic scene, reinterpreted over the centuries by artists of every avant-garde, from Leonardo da Vinci to Salvador Dalí.

From symbolism to figurative art

Historically, the most secular depictions of wine are linked to the popularity of the still life during the 16th and 17th century. That being said, Pliny the Elder (who else) already described the genius of Greek artist Zeuxis, who painted grapes so realistically that “the birds, confused, would come close to pick at them.”

Impressionism might be the moment when wine sheds all liturgical significance and comfortably settles into quotidian life as a symbol of hedonism. Renoir, Manet, Monet, Cezanne all turned to wine to embellish their subject matter as they captured brief everyday moments.

By the 20th century, the avant-garde took the still life “sub-genre” a step further, which took on a new dimension in Cubism with artistic greats like Juan Gris, Picasso or Miró turning their attention to wine.

The label as canvas

The pairing of wine and painting to embellish great wines has borne different signatures throughout history. It is an almost symbiotic alliance, which is essential to understanding the soul of Jean Leon wines; an idea that is part of the collective imagination of all wine lovers.

Art as an answer. Under this lovely motto, Baron Philippe de Rothschild celebrated the end of World War II by featuring an illustration on the label of his most renowned wine, starting a tradition that would eventually pave the way for the work of Dalí, Picasso, Francis Bacon and Warhol.

Nowadays, this alliance is sure to continue thanks to various wineries and artists who, like Jean Leon, approach the wine world from a multifaceted perspective in both art and life.

Painting with wine—or squaring the circle, if you will. Wine as a living tool. The canvas as thirst. This is Vinography. Here wine comes to life as a pictorial medium, rendering forms and figures of varying hues and depths.

The most representative artist working in this discipline is probably Victoria Febrer, a Valencian-born artist based in New York.

From dark cave walls to bright wine labels. From symbol to form, from object to subject. Wine and painting share an affinity; they understand and recognize each other. Two kinds of creative work become one.  The result is an experiential dialogue that speaks to our sensibilities and senses.




Rafa Moreno

Categorías: Art and Culture