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The 'Mystic Wine' Tapestry

Updated on February 9, 2012

The "Mystic Wine" tapestry

Vatican Collections
Vatican Collections | Source

The "Mystic Wine" tapestry is, de facto, a painting rendered on wool and silk. The title "Mystic Wine" is irrelevant, for the small figure of Jesus holding the grapes is of no significance. The Virgin Mary is the focal point of the entire scene. Her figure, placed in the very foreground, is larger than the female figure facing Jesus. Resting on the chair, the Virgin looks exhausted. Her fatigued physiognomy can be discerned by the viewer. Since it is the Virgin Mary who was proclaimed the Mother of the Church, she is the emblem signifying the endurance and persistence of God's Holy Temple.

The two biblical male figures on the opposite sides of the painting counterbalance each other. The male figure on the left is more distant from the Virgin. The Latin biblical inscription above his head, "PORREXIT MANVM SVAM IN LIBACIONE ET LIBAVIT DE SANGVINE VVE," can be literally translated as "HE REACHED OUT HIS HAND AT THE LIBATION FROM THE BLOOD-RED GRAPE AND POURED." This inscription can only be found in a Catholic Bible. The male figure on the right is standing nearby the Virgin. The Latin inscription below his left arm reads, "AMMRM ERIT POTIOBIBETIBVS ILLAM VSA" "29." The accurate translation is "THAT DRINK WILL BE BITTER TO THE DRINKERS WHO WILL MAKE USE OF IT." The two angelic musicians playing a harp and a viola are symmetrically balanced by the two angels behind the Virgin. The Latin inscription above the two angels reads, "BIBITE VINVM QD MISCVI VOBIS" "PROVB 9." The literary translation is, "DRINK THE WINE THAT I MIXED FOR YOU." However, each Latin inscription included in the painting contains grammatical errors; that proves that the "mystic wine" is of secondary importance.

The beautifully harmonized colors applied in the well-balanced composition contribute to the uniqueness of the depicted scene. The exquisite and imaginative rendition demonstrates the artist's profound understanding of his/her vocation.


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