Poème de la Vigne
      By Paul Gustave Doré  

homeward bound





This bizarre three-ton bronze vase, decorated with a baroque tangle of vines and oenopoetic figures, celebrates winemaking. Titled Poème de la Vigne, it is said to be an original cast by the illustrator and artist Gustave Doré (Jan. 6, 1832 - Jan. 23, 1883).

At the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (where you had to pay special admission to see it) the mammoth bronze caught the attention of Michael de Young, who had grand aspirations of his own. De Young exhibited the piece at his San Francisco's Midwinter Fair of 1894, and this exuberant work must have resonated with the fair's theme, "California: Cornucopia of the World."

The fair marked the first development of John McLaren's sylvan park, which raised the value of de Young's properties in the city's Sunset and Richmond districts even as it distressed the great Scotsman.

After the fair de Young purchased the work for the Memorial Museum (now the de Young Museum) that was a legacy of the exposition, and the vase was a highlight of the museum's collection in its early years. In 1906 the San Francisco earthquake tipped over the vase but apparently caused little damage.

According to an article in an 1893 issue of World's Fair, "The total visual effect of 'Poem of the Vine' is one of lush, rich enjoyment ... like a bottle of wine itself, to be tasted in sips, yet enjoyed as a complete experience."

Today the Dore vase may appear more an oddity than a masterpiece. Somewhat surprisingly given its size, it has been moved around the park several times over the years and was on Teagarden Drive outside the de Young Museum when these photos were taken in 2001.






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