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.
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."
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
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.
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."
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.