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  • New imagery. Harvest.

  • Vineyard corner, Languedoc.

    DEBAT-PONSAN Edouard (1847 - 1913)

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Title: New imagery. Harvest.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 35.3 - Width 45.2

Technique and other indications: Colored lithograph.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux website

Picture reference: 08-521445 / 53.86.4677D

New imagery. Harvest.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

To close

Title: Vineyard corner, Languedoc.

Author : DEBAT-PONSAN Edouard (1847 - 1913)

Creation date : 1886

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 202 - Width 260

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage location: Nantes Museum of Fine Arts website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Picture reference: 01-006536 / INV889

Vineyard corner, Languedoc.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: November 2009

Historical context

The harvest in the XIXe century

Taking place in the fall, the harvest is the last important event of the agricultural season and, more broadly, an important moment in rural life. Still exclusively manual in the 19th centurye century, the picking of grapes intended for wine production is an opportunity for collective work, as are the operations that follow it: transfer of the harvest, crushing, pressing, barreling or bottling. As a result, the harvest is accompanied by many festivals and village customs around new wine.

The surface area of ​​vineyards increased considerably in France in the 19th century.e century. At the same time, the progress of the harvest changed little, and very rare are the cases of “modernization” in this area. Indeed, even if one does not always own vines, one can then help other people, or at least participate in the various celebrations linked to the occasion.

Image Analysis

Two harvest scenes

The first picture, Harvest, is a colored lithograph published by the Haguenthal printing press in the mid-19th centurye century. It comprises three series of humorous sketches accompanied by captions: the first two, devoted to the grape harvest, show peasants, men, women and children, who move among the vines near a house. They are dressed in traditional clothes and wear clogs. In the last series there are only men: some tread or squeeze the grapes while others rest, discuss or "taste" the new wine.

The second image, Vineyard, Languedoc, is the work of Édouard Debat-Ponsan (1847-1913), a painter from Toulouse known for his portraits, his history paintings and, above all, his "provincialist" representations of landscapes and scenes of rural life. Presented at the Nantes Salon of 1886, this ultra-realistic canvas almost looks like a photograph. In the foreground stands a peasant woman in clogs, erect, pure gaze fixed in the distance, a woven basket filled with bunches of grapes in her hand. Next to her, a young child is leaning over one of the three large wooden bins where the pickers dump the fruit. In the background to the right, two women and a man appear, also busy picking grapes. On the left is a man standing on a high cart drawn by two oxen. Presumably waiting to load the bins, he looks at the beautiful young woman. Behind him, a field rises gently. Hedges and a few trees border the horizon.


Traditional imagery and renewed imagery of the harvest

The two representations of the harvest are clearly different. Indeed, the engraving Harvest presents a general scene, without context, in which little individualized peasants appear, placed in archetypal situations. The subject is funny, the harvest is the occasion of hard work, but associated with partying and drinking. This lithograph takes up the traditional and immemorial imagery of wine and harvest.

On the contrary, in Vineyard, Languedoc, Debat-Ponsan focuses the attention (of the spectator and of the man standing in the background, who is a figure in abyss) on a character and a precise place. Combining technical realism and a certain idealism (served precisely by the extreme precision of the touch), the artist suggests the nobility of peasant labor. Unlike the first image, the harvest here refers more to labor than to celebration and intoxication. Through this proud, beautiful and dignified young woman, the painter seems to offer a renewed, modern vision of the harvest, to better exalt the rural world.

Although different and even opposed, the two images meet at certain points. On the one hand, we note in both cases the lack of change and technical progress in the harvest. The same instruments are used. On the other hand, we understand that the harvest is the occasion for a certain distribution of tasks: the picking of the bunches is provided mainly by the women assisted by the children, while the transport is provided exclusively by the men who then carry out the whole wine-making process. Thus, the peasant women are totally absent from the third and last level of engraving. Finally, the harvest, like the harvest, is done in common and is therefore an opportunity for sociability.

  • agricultural work
  • Third Republic
  • wine


Gilbert GARRIER, Social and cultural history of wine, Paris, Bordas Cultures, 1995. Marcel LACHIVER, Vins, Vignes et Vignerons, Paris, Fayard, 1988. Emmanuel LE ROY-LADURIE, Les paysans de Languedoc, Paris, S.E.V.P.E.N., 1966.

To cite this article

Alban SUMPF, "The harvest"

Video: The start of HARVEST 2020