Painted in the year Delpy moved with his family to the Barbizon forest, this Salon-scale work by the artist depicts a different locale -one to which the artist must have traveled later that autumn. The work shows in rich colour and with a deep impasto reminiscent of Delpy’s contemporaries, the Impressionists, a landscape of Burgundian vines being harvested at dawn in Nivers. Harvesting began in the cool before the sun, unseen and only just illuminating the sky, rose; the previous night’s near-full moon sets in the painting’s west. Some fifteen figures populate the vineyard and the wicker basket filled with grapes, visible on the back one of these figures to the right of the ox-drawn cart, would have been emptied into one of the cart’s barrels.
Burgundy’s long history is intertwined with its vines: graveyard of the village church of Corgloloin contain tombstones dating back to the 2nd century AD which depict grapes and Celtic gods holding vines.
During the middle ages it was monasteries that excelled at winemaking (the monks had the advantages of cellars in which to mature wine and time and money with which to develop viticultural systems.)
By Delpy’s time the French Revolution had broken-up the vineyards, and re-distributed the land among the non-clergy. Grapes were typically pooled, as some owners had only a hand-full of vines, and then sold to bigger producers. For this reason the importance of ‘terroir’ remains central to wine classification to the present day; it helps to distinguish wines produced in a single vineyard from those produced over a region.