Another way to sip the museumI went to the Louvre recently for a change, and with a few friends we had a special tour centered on wine related scenes, sculptures and vessels. This is an exciting way to go through the museum, passing vertically across the centuries with wine and other fermented beverages being the civilizational thread uniting all these vibrant cultures. B. was the one that could explain us all the untold stories behind these works, which certainly helps because the small plaques wouldn’t tell much more than the author, the date and where it came from. In the Louvre, you can look at ancien historic eras and civilizations, but you can also manage to have on the side an intuitive understanding of the History of wine
, because paintings and artifacts speak by themselves if you open
yourself to them. Wine has made all these civilizations beautiful, and thinking to the troublemakers who are doing a lot of harm today around the world, I’ll repeat the great words of Benjamin Franklin they’d be wise to emulate : Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance
Wine is as old as known and defunct past civilizations, it is even certainly older than civilization itself, prehistoric humans had soon understood that Nature had given them the possibility to transcend and elevate their mood and social sharing by indulging in a few drinks. Give a few grapes or berries left to rot in a corner and there would be after a while this sticky inebriating juice that was possibly consumed for religious or pagan perspectives in these early human groups (like in this 6000-year old winery found in an Armenia cave). It’s hard for us to imagine how all this began, we tend to project our preconceived view of «civilized man» toward our savage ancestors and we may be wrong all along, they may have had then an internal eye which allowed them to see the world much better than we do, and use its tools and herbs with a visionary intuition [my Rudolf Steiner training speaks here…].
There are so many things to see in the Louvre, most people go straight to a few works that have acquired a cult status worldwide, even among people not particularly into arts, and the Mona Lisa painting (La Joconde in French) must be in that regard the queen of selfies and Instagram. The good side of mass tourism is that crowds more or less concentrate on a few rooms in the large museum, pay for the general costs of running a museum and otherwise leaves much of the collection rooms with reasonable attendance. Lately, the threat of renewed islamic terror has kind of diminished the crowds on major monuments in Paris, including in the Louvre, but you might not notice it easily at first glance, it’s still crowded on certain days with foreign visitors including Chinese groups, so it’s wise to go there at the opening hour and preferably on a week day if you look for quieter times.
A personnal 2/3-hour tour can be arranged on this wine thread at the Louvre (in French, English & Japanese) and with much more info including the untold story behind these works.
The Borghese vase
This wine krater is a decorative object that was made in Greece around 40-30 BC, it was found in Rome in 1569 in the Sallustius gardens formerly owned by Caesar. Its bas relief depict Bacchanalian scenes with Dionysos and his thiasus
, which is a group of Satyrs and Bacchantes or Maenads.
Late 16th century, Italy – Harvest scenesHere you can see interesting information about viticulture in the 16th century : you can see that the man picking the grapes on the right has to climb a ladder as the vine grows along the trunk of a tree. Vines were thus left grow by themselves, possibly unpruned and the trees were doing the job of today’s posts, the fruit load for each vine may have been the equivalent of many modern trellised/pruned vines.
On the lower right you can see a man foot stomping the grapes, and a woman checking the flowing juice.
In the background you can see a scene with wood baskets of grapes (looking like half barrels) being loaded into a big open-top fermenter at the back of an ox cart. At the foot of the woman holding the grape box you can see a smaller basket which may be the one used by pickers on their ladder.
Late 16th century, Italy – Harvest scenesHere at the door of the farm (same painting) you can see the cooper busy fixing or building barrels, with scattered cooper tools in the background. The head cooper who is rather well dressed (this was obviously a money-making job) is standing and giving the last touch to a finished barrel while his aide (who is wearing torn clothes) is preparing the wood staves.
In the foreground, center-right, you can see a child drinking the delicious grape juice. Near his/her bare foot you can see what looks like a miniature barrel, of the kind pickers used to carry in the vineyard to quench their thirst.
Wedding at Cana, turning water into wine (Italy, mid 16th century)Wedding at Cana, the wine reaching the tables (Italy, mid 16th century)Last Supper (same work as top-right) – detail, glass of wine with lid (16th century)(Great for shaking the CO2 bubbles out of unsulfured wine…)Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Four Seasons (here : Summer) mid-16th centuryGrapes on vine (Italy – mid 17th century)Here on this little-known picture which was possibly part of a larger painting originally, you can see an interesting detail about the way vines were grown back then : the vine here again is growing around a tree, of which you can guess the trunk in the background. The diameter of this trunk compared to the size of the head on the lower right means it’s not the vine itself but a tree which is used as a post.
Stem glass, Bagdad 9th century — Don’t tell me these guys weren’t drinking booze back then…;-)Dionysos head, Beotia (Greece) 400-450 BC-Grape-cluster shaped ceramics — Meroë Kingdom (Sudan)Kantharos (wine cup) with woman face (Athens 500 BC)Napata pottery with grape-cluster motifs (660-300 BC)Satyr holding wineskin & amphora in 2-handle plate (Greece)1800-BC stone, EgyptWine lovers excercizing their skills at guessing the aromas of flowers…;-)Wine glass on table with Christ holding hand (Italy mid-16th century)Wine strainer — Greece, early 5th century BCMan pouring white wine (France early 17th century)Man hauling barrels to/from ship in a port (France mid 17th century)Carafe (Egypt 5th century)Calices — EgyptDionysos holding kantharos & egg (390 BC – Greece)Glass of red wine in a still life — Germany, early 17th centuryGlass of white wine, same still life (Germany, early 17th century)Drinkware, Asyut (Egypt) 2000 BCOenochoe (wine jugs) Greece (made in copper) — 5th century BCPeasants drinking wine (France mid 17th century)Hunters having lunch (France early 18th century)Skyphos (drinkware), Kerch (Crimea, Russia) 50 BC2-handle vessel — Italy, 1-2nd century ADOysters & Wine (France, early 18th century) – not in the Louvre but in ChantillyOutdoor feast (Holland, early 17th century) – Glass of red wineOutdoor feast (Holland, early 17th century) – Glass of white wineBoscoreale silver drinkware (Pompeï, Italy – older than 79 BC)With skeletons representing Greek philosophers chatting and celebrating enjoyment of life & «Carpe Diem»Table amphora (for wine), decorated with Dionysos with Satyr & Maenad (Greece 540 BC)Rhyton (sort of wine mug) Greece 470 BCStill life with wine glass and demijohns (Holland mid 17th century)Outdoor scene with wine carafes (Belgium – mid 17th century)Wine cup (Greece 600 BC)Very interesting plastic vase design :The character and base are hollow and there’s wine inside too, which makes the drinker feel like the cup remains always full…Offering bearer — Egypt 1950 BCThey say she carries a vessel of water in her hand but they won’t fool me, this was wine !Silenus (older Satyr) – Galerie d’Apollon – LouvreHunters’ lunch – tapestry (Belgium late 16th century)Looks like the guy up there is waiting for his turn…Still life with claret and bread (Germany early 17th century)Funerary stela (Egypt 1970 BC)The hyeoglyphs on this stela are said to tell about 1000 jugs of beer, and this woman on the right smells a flower (I swear she drinks !)Cup – Sedeigan (Egypt/Sudan 1000-2000 BC)Indoor scene featuring peasants (detail) France mid 17th century)Just by the color I’m convinced this was a very enjoyable wine…Janiform aryballos (Greece 520 BC) featuring an African male and a clear-skinned womanThis pic was better than the one I shot (I found it on Wikimedia) — Said to be used for perfumed oilKantharos (wine cup) Greece 450 BCWomen representing the seasons, one holding grapes (Rome 2nd century BC)