Symbolism Sunday: The Grape

December 26, 2010

Vulcanite Necklace/Pendant with Grapes

It’s the day after Jesus’ birthday, so let’s look at a symbol that represents the man himself. Being a website about mourning, I decided to pick out something a tad less morbid for the day. So, there you have it, grapes represent Christ and often the promise of a delicious fruit or a nice wine. What else? Oh, grapes and leaves symbolise the Christian faith.

“But Hayden,” I hear you cry, “it’s the day after Christmas and I’m full, tired and want to do nothing but browse the ‘net all day!”

Well, all right.

Grapes on a Victorian Locket

Enamel Grapes

The grape can also represent Dionysus, but we’ll look to the more familiar variations for this symbol. It is not uncommon to find the leaf used in Christian churches or funeral funeralia, as they also show the triumph of victory over death and the joys of heaven (see how that ties back to my first paragraph?).

In literal terms, look at the symbol itself and note the behaviour of the grape. It is a plant which grows in abundance and one of the earliest cultivated crops known to mobilised society, hence the connection to the symbol bearing fruit for the harvest. Here is an element of birth/rebirth within the representation of the grapes and also its connection to victory, as the ripe harvest shows the promise of the fruits rewards being reaped and turned into the production of sustenance for the future as well as a product which promotes happiness. In this, there is the link towards Dionysus, with the vine being worn by cult members to represent a god closely connected to wine (also the bull, serpent and ivy) and its intoxicating effects. Interestingly enough, there are parallels between Dionysus and Jesus that stem from the transubstantiation of water/wine and resurrection, but I find that these reinforce the symbol’s intent and its use when worn in jewellery.

The motif can be found in Neoclassical pieces, but much more commonly in the second half 19th century pieces, where it is often embellished in lockets, pendants or manufactured as charms. When used in Neoclassical depictions, the symbol is often a secondary motif, relegated to being a symbol that works in conjunction with its surroundings to enhance symbolic meaning, such as wrapped around a column or plinth, combined with oak, held by the human subject of the depiction or bordering the piece itself. In the 19th century uses, post 1840 and the re-introduction of Christian family values (which we’re going to discuss in the new year quite in-depth), the symbol becomes one used prominently and often alone – note the use in the pieces above. These two pieces are using different materials, but both show the symbol as the central focus to the piece itself. Much of this usage is directly because of its Christian leaning as a symbol and for the very reason that the symbol conveys a positive message of rebirth/birth.

There you are, I hope you all had a lovely day yesterday and that you got some terrific jewellery as presents!

Previously on Symbolism Sunday:

The Daisy

The Oak

The Acanthus

Revisiting The Trumpet

The Harp


The Acorn

The Trumpet

The Male

The Woman

The Three Graces

Faith, Hope and Charity

The Clover

The Willow

The Column

The Hourglass

The Serpent

The Dove

The Dog

The Angel

The Marigold / Lily

21 Responses to “Symbolism Sunday: The Grape”

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