For some, it's a ritual. For others, a way to unwind after a demanding day at work.
But however it's approached, people's love affair with wine has existed for centuries.
The world of wine and its complex relationship to society and politics is now on exhibit at Winterthur Museum in Delaware until January 6, 2013.
The brainchild of Winterthur's Senior Curator of Ceramics and Glass Leslie Grigsby, Uncorked! Wine, Objects, & Tradition, displays over 300 objects that in some way relate to wine.
From the first spark of the idea for the exhibit, Grigsby was committed to scouring the shelves and back rooms containing Winterthur's vast collection to find any and all wine-related objects that could tell a fascinating story of the enormous influence wine had on the broader aspects of society and daily life. The result is an entertaining, often humorous, and fully enlightening look at the forces at work during the 18th and 19th centuries that in one way or another involved wine and a wine-consuming society.
Uncorked! begins exploring relationships of wine by showing how classical designs of early wine vessels of the Greeks and Romans were carried on in traditional and emerging styles of wine containers leading up to today's bottle shapes.
For example, the classical, urn-shaped clay and glass vessels (with handles) used by the Greeks and Romans for mixing wine and other beverages, today are used as flower vases and outdoor decorations in landscaped gardens.
The exhibit next delves into the business of wine, where advertising played a key role, such as in business cards depicting wine in all manner of uses - similar to business cards today – promoting the virtues of wine, as well as extolling the expertise of merchants and the quality of their wares.
The largest focus of Uncorked! encompasses the societal, religious, and political sides of wine consumption, exposing the ambivalence society has had with its relationship to wine over decades.
Political issues involving taxes on wine, the financial gain of wine merchants, and the temperance movement to curtail wine consumption and discourage over-indulgence, reveal the complex interaction of wine in society.
A postcard showing the plus-and-minus sides to wine, depicts a wealthy, well-dressed woman on the left, in stark contrast to a poor, shabbily-dressed woman on the right. The caption (paraphrased) under the wealthy woman is, My husband owns a tavern. The caption (paraphrased) under the poor woman is, My husband frequents the tavern.
This paradox of society's views on wine can also be seen in the dual portrayal of grapes (and other fruit) in paintings. For example, when an artist paints fresh grapes (and other fruit), the fruits symbolize life, fertility, and abundance. But when rotten fruit (grapes) are the subject, they represent death and decay.
The exhibit, too, reveals how wine consumption was, and still is, very much a part of 'game-playing.' Sometimes a game of cards. Other times puzzle games.
The fascination with puzzles is highlighted in a display of jugs - the jugs, themselves, are the puzzles. These puzzle jugs were made with several holes placed strategically around the jug's rim. People drinking from the jug had to figure out which hole (or holes) had to be blocked with their fingers(s), or suffer the humiliation of having wine spill all over themselves.
But regardless of your own relationship with wine, Uncorked!Wine, Objects, & Tradition, showcases Winterthur's extenstive collection of objects dealing with all manner of wine, from fabrics to decanters and stemware.
To make the exhibit even more wine divine, Winterthur hosts a wine-tasting one Friday each month from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Galleries open for wine-tasting guests at 5:30 p.m. prior to viewing the collection.
Cost is $50, with a member discount of 10%.
For more details, go online: www.winterthur.org
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