A Case for Wine: From King Tut to Today
East Side Regenstein Hall
July 11–September 20, 2009

Highlighting the museum and Chicago’s special wine connections, the exhibition begins with one of the Art Institute’s most famous vessels, the Chicago Painter’s Vase, a Greek stamnos or wine jar that was purchased for the museum in 1889 during one of its very first European buying expeditions. The Bacchanalian revelry painted on the exquisite vessel is also explored in other works, from Italian Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna to Prohibition–protesting sculptor Paul Manship.

After boisterous scenes of Bacchus, the exhibition moves on to an examination of wine vessels both secular and religious. A comprehensive collection of 17th- and 18th-century English seal bottles trace the wine bottle’s form from its more bulbous beginnings to its present-day svelte cylindrical shape, while a selection of chalices (many lent by Loyola University Museum of Art) dating from 14th-century Siena to mid-20th-century Chicago document the evolution of that form in both Catholic and Protestant worship.

The intoxicating exhibition offers several more exceptional highlights. The museum’s outstanding collection of 16th- to 19th-century European wine glasses is displayed alongside paintings by Pieter Claesz, Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, and Henri Fantin-Latour that incorporate remarkably similar wine glasses. A gallery saluting wine-related works of the World’s Fairs offers a recent acquisition, Victorian architect William Burges’s sideboard whose polychromatic surface tells the apocryphal story of “Saint Bacchus” who dies by drowning in a barrel of wine. Works by Impressionists, Cubists, and Surrealists offer insight into the wine-infused atmosphere of café life. And in the final gallery, the work of modern and contemporary artists is featured including German painter Brigitte Riesebrodt’s The Last Supper. Composed of recycled wooden wine barrel staves found near her studio in Tuscany, the work, thanks to the still saturated wood, suffuses the air with the subtle scent of wine, offering wine enthusiasts a chance to put their well-trained noses to work.

Organizer and Curator

This exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and curated by Christopher Monkhouse, Eloise W. Martin Curator of European Decorative Arts, with Rebecca J. Williams as research assistant for the project.


This exhibition is funded in part by the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute of Chicago and through the generosity of an Anonymous Donor.
Special thanks to the European Decorative Arts Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago for their guidance and support of this exhibition.

Lenders and Contributors

In addition to every curatorial department at the Art Institute, the following public institutions and private collections have been most generous with loans:

Ann and Bruce Bachmann
Valerie Gerrard Brown
Mr. and Mrs. John Bryan
Chicago History Museum
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Driehaus Enterprise Management, Inc.
S. Franses Ltd., London
Jean and Steven Goldman
Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Grober
Nancy and Philip Kotler
Loyola University Museum of Art
Milwaukee Art Museum
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago
Playboy Enterprises, Inc.
Brigitte Riesebrodt
Harry A. Root
Betsy and Andrew Rosenfield
The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art,
The University of Chicago
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Byron Smith, Jr.
Terra Foundation for American Art
Anne H. and Frederick Vogel III
Marc and Tracy Whitehead
Private Collections (3)

Curatorial consultants for this exhibition include Jonathan Canning, Martin D’Arcy Curator, Loyola University Museum of Art (ecclesiastical works); Dwight Lanmon, Director Emeritus, Winterthur Museum, and Retired Director, The Corning Museum of Glass (glass); Jutta-Annette Page, The Toledo Museum of Art (glass); Letitia Robert, independent ceramics scholar (porcelain); and Wynyard Wilkinson, silver dealer and author (silver).

Jutta-Annette Page’s involvement is funded by a grant from the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute.

Attributed to the Chicago Painter (his Name Vase). Stamnos (Wine Jar), c. 450 B.C. Greek, Attica. Gift of Philip D. Armour and Charles L. Hutchinson.