Current & Coming  |  By Megan Holloway Fort

Wine as inspiration

August 24, 2009  |  Since classical Greece, philosophers have been extolling the virtues of a glass of good wine. Socrates supposedly advised: "So far as drinking is concerned, you have my hearty approval; for wine does of a truth moisten the soul and lull our griefs to sleep." According to the thirteenth-century theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas: "Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of good wine." And during the trials of our country's early days, Benjamin Franklin professed that "wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance."

A Case for Wine: From King Tut to Today, on view at the Art Institute of Chicago to September 20, traces the history of wine's cultivation and consumption in both religious and secular contexts through a selection of vessels whose origins range from ancient Greece to twentieth-century Chicago. The exhibition begins with one of the museum's most famous pieces, the so-called Chicago Painter's Vase, a Greek stamnos (wine jar) that was purchased in 1889 during one of the museum's first European buying trips. Other standouts include a display of the museum's collection of sixteenth- to nineteenth-century European wineglasses, and a comprehensive group of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English seal bottles, which trace the wine bottle form from its more bulbous beginnings to its present day cylindrical shape.

Also included are still-life and genre paintings that incorporate images of wine vessels and scenes of people drinking, as well as works by contemporary artists thatdemonstrate that wine still serves as a source of creative inspiration. In all, this engaging cross-departmental exhibition includes some three hundred objects that explore the sometimes surprising connections between wine and the fine and decorative arts. The show was organized by Christopher Monkhouse, the Eloise W. Martin Curator of European Decorative Arts at the museum, and there is no accompanying catalogue.

A Case for Wine: From King Tut to Today · Art Institute of Chicago · to September 20 ·

Images from above: Wine jug made by Charles Frederick Kandler (1695-after 1735), 1739-1740. Silver, height 13 3⁄8 inches. Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the Antiquarian Society.  Centerpiece by Jean Despres (1889-1980), c. 1925-1930. Silver-plated metal; height 8 ¼, diameter 9 inches. Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Mrs. James W. Alsdorf in memory of her husband through the Antiquarian Society.

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