Home > History of Wine, Image > A 15th century Image of a Man Harvesting Grapes

A 15th century Image of a Man Harvesting Grapes


Detail from Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 963. Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi. [2]

Peter of Poitiers (c. 1130 – 1215) or in Latin Petrus Pictaviensis Cancellarius, was a French scholastic theologian, who was a professor and chancellor of the Church of Paris.[1]  In response to the lack of education of illiterate clerics and poor students, Peter of Poitiers created a series of manuscripts detailing different stages of Biblical history.  Contemporaneously known as Compendium Historiae in Genealogia Christi they feature “historical trees” with names inscribed within circles connected by lines to illustrate relationships.  Alongside these trees appear brief bibliographic details.  The Compendium includes other illustrations, which is where my interest lies, particularly in the detailed image of a man harvesting grapes.

The image is of a 15th century copy of the Compendium held by the Vatican.  The image was first held online by the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg [2] then was rescanned by the Vatican in 2018. [3]  It shows a man in medieval clothes harvesting grapes from a trellised vineyard using a knife.  He has filled a large basket with black grape clusters and appears to have switched to a smaller hand basket.  The trellis is constructed of wooden rods set in the ground and lashed together with rope or cane.  The vines are intertwined amongst the trellis.  The vineyard itself sits on lush, green grass with perhaps a few small flowers.

The grape leaves are veined and appear in different shades of green.  The grape clusters combine lighting and shadowing to illustrate each individual berry.  I find this quite pleasing.

Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 963. Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi. [2]


[1] Monroe, William H. A Roll-Manuscript of Peter of Poitier’s Compendium. The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Mar., 1978), pp. 92-107. Published by: Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25159572

[2] Vatikan, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 963. Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Arbor consanguinitatis et affinitatis ; Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi — Deutschland, 15. Jh. Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg. URL: https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/bav_pal_lat_963/0009

[3] Shelfmark: Pal.lat.963. Author: Petrus <Pictaviensis, Cancellarius>. Title: Arbor consanguinitatis et affinitatis ; Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi. Date: 15. Jh. Place: Deutschland. Rights Attribution: Images Copyright Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. URL: https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Pal.lat.963/0009

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