Classical Art, Wine In

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Wine was so deeply embedded in the culture of the classical world that it is inevitable that it would figure prominently in the art of that world. The vessels used for mixing and drinking wine (see crater, for example) were frequently decorated with scenes which played on the association with wine. So, most notably, the fine Attic Black and Red Figure pottery of the 6th and 5th centuries bc sometimes contains rural scenes of men harvesting grapes and treading them, as well as scenes from the komos (revels) and the symposium, in which the craters and cups are depicted in use. Sometimes it is possible to suspect an ironic commentary taking place. A famous Red Figure cup by the so-called Dokimasia painter has scenes of revelry around the outside with the awkward spaces under the handles filled by men crouched or crawling, the worse for drink, while inside the cup an old man is depicted being sick. Another playful irony is that nearly all these scenes can be found translated to another world, in which men are replaced by satyrs, uninhibited by the conventions of human society and presided over by the god dionysus. Not surprisingly, Dionysus achieves a greater prominence in the art of the world of drinking than his place in the pantheon would suggest as his due. Feasting and banquets with wine also form the subject of some of the most memorable frescos from the tombs of the etruscans, where, for example, the Tomb of the Leopards at Tarquinia beautifully illustrates the funeral meal held near the tomb in honour of the dead.