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The use of the first rule of composition allowed me to discover an iconographic game as fun as uplifting:


the wine in the glasses is often painted tilted, and not horizontal as the law of gravity would like.


Many paintings   attest to the tradition of an iconography of drunkenness.

The inclined surface of the wine when extended in a line to the edge of the format often reveals a composition desired by the painter in order to deliver a message. There are three subjects:

- social scenes

- love scenes

- religious scenes .


Ter Borch, Young couple, the wine is tilted in the glass and points to the man's index finger.

Gérard Ter BORCH - Young couple with wine (detail) - 1663 - Gemäldegalerie Berlin - photo plots © gm - The white wine is strongly tilted and its extended red line points to the human index.

Capture d’écran 2020-01-16 à

The horizontal green line measures the 10 ° tilt of the wine in the glass.

In this scene of romantic seduction, the woman seems to be sensitive to the charm of the man, to the point of losing perhaps her discernment which would allow her to really appreciate the situation. She holds her glass of wine tilted and according to the law of gravity, the surface of the wine should remain horizontal. However the wine is strongly tilted with an angle of 10 °. This subterfuge, see this cheating, acts as a kind of visual metaphor, a language created by painters to speak of altered states of consciousness. Here, by the line of the surface of the wine which extends on the index finger of the man we understand that this one would have dishonest intentions towards the young woman whose judgment seems to be lost in alcohol .

Social drunkennesse with Georges de La Tour

It was while working in 2013 on the well-known work of Georges de La Tour's "Cheat ace of diamonds" that I began my investigations into the subject of drunkenness in paintings.

This genre scene inspired by Caravaggio illustrates the moral precepts of the XVII ° century which incited to fight against the scourge of gambling, excessive alcohol and pleasures of the flesh with courtesans.

De La Tour realistically seized three characters in the middle of a card game as well as the servant who served them in wine.


I invite you to observe what is happening around the glass of wine held by the servant.

DELATOUR, Le tricheur à l'as de carreau, Louvre, photo gm.

Georges de La TOUR - the cheat with the ace of diamonds - 1635 - Louvre - Photo gm

A whole set of hands and looks unfolds in this scene of lust, suspicion and cheating. It is clearly around the glass of wine that the hands of the cheater, the maid and the courtesan activate and brush against each other, as if as a prelude to sharing the rich young man's gold. The sight of this glass of wine is so disturbed that a detail can escape the usual perception. Indeed, the movements of hands and the eyes monopolize the attention in order to prevent seeing a sort of less visible cheating.

To see this cheating, you have to detail the glass of wine and help yourself by tracing the medians of the format.

De La TOUR - the Cheater - the wine is tilted and points to the necklace and the card game.

Traces of the extension of the surface of the wine in red and the axis of the glass of wine.


By extending the axis of the glass and the inclined surface of the wine, we notice that the wine is not horizontal but inclined at 4 °, and it points to the pearl necklace and the deck of cards. The vertical axis of the glass, meanwhile, points to the gold coins and the servant's nose.

De La Tour, Le Tricheur, the tilted wine is parallel to the eyes of the courtesan.

Le vin incliné à 4° est parallèle au regard de la courtisane, lui aussi incliné à 4°. Celle-ci regarde la bouche de la servante et le nez du tricheur (en bleu à 9° et 18° selon les angles préférentiels) .


If we refer, above, to the parallelism between the line of the wine and the gaze of the courtesan, the latter's intention seems clear to intoxicate the cheater in order to put his lucidity to sleep and thus monopolize the rich young man's money. by sucking on its feminine strengths to arouse the desire for it. To show this, de La Tour directs the courtesan's gaze on the courtesan who must not say a word about her mistress' project, as well as on the cheater's nose who must take a blow in the nose , according to popular expression.



For the sake of rigor   scientist let's check if these two lines - that of the tilted wine and that of the courtesan's gaze - are not an illusion to want to put on Cinderella's shoe to a beautiful theory.

Delatour, the cheater, the tilted glass of wine linked to the golden composition grid

The courtesan's gaze , parallel to the wine, is placed on the golden harmonic grid (in yellow) on the edge of the format (red arrow on the right)

The red arrow above, on the right, shows that the courtesan's gaze rests on the golden harmonic grid on the edge of the format. The points of the 1st rule of composition conditioned by this grid are the noses of the three protagonists. The fourth pointed nose, that of the servant, is related to the glass of wine.

The composition created by de La Tour shows a link between the wine that points to money and the game, the three vices, and three noses: the servant's intuitive nose which understands the intention of her mistress ( she has a nose ), the cheater's nose ( having a blow to the nose ) of the cheater, and the nose linked to a symbol of sexuality for the courtesan and her future client.

Social drunkenness with Wouter

Wouter Crabeth II is a Dutch painter trained in France and Rome who excelled in caravaggesque genre scenes. Many of his contemporaries and himself have used the iconography of tilted alcohol in tavern scenes.

WOUTER Crabeth II - Cheaters - 1530 - Berlin - photo gm Inclined beer lines (in red) and harmonic grids of the medians and ½ medians.

WOUTER Crabeth II - The Cheaters - 1530 - Gemäldegalerie Berlin - photo guymauchamp

The tilted beer lines (in red) and the harmonic grids of the medians and ½ medians.

The composition soberly shows, if I can say, the use of tilted wine and two harmonic grids: the wine (or beer?) Is tilted by pointing the mouth of the servant, the little finger and the thumb of the man in black, the deck of cards and the median and half- median grids . These two harmonic grids installed the eyes of the four players and the card game on the table. This provision confirms the relationship between alcohol and card game cheating.

Drunkenness in love with Vermeer

In this Vermeer below, the discreet inclination of the wine (red line) joins on the edge of the format the golden composition grid Phi (in yellow), grid which served as support for the first composition rule by positioning, for the connect, the nose and the eye of the man and the open mouth of the young woman.

Vermeer, Young girl with an inclined glass of wine, this inclination of the wine is conditioned by the golden grid of composition

VERMEER - Young Girl with Glass of Wine (detail) - 1660 -

The wine tilted in the glass indicates an extended line (in red) which points to the eye of the sleeping man and joins on the left on the edge of the format, the golden grid of composition.

This extended line of wine in connection with a harmonic grid congruent with the subject of the painting shows the link between a representation of drunkenness related to the theme of the painting. These lines are a striking shortcut that illustrates the selfish and devious intention that the man carries to the young woman by means of alcohol.

Drunkenness in love with Rembrandt

Rembrandt Saskia, 1635, Dresden, Googgle Art Project

REMBRANDT - Portrait Rembrandt and Saskia - 1635 - Dresden - GoogleArtProject

In this pleasant intimate scene, Rembrandt raises his glass as if to toast with the spectator, and it is easy to see the surface of the beer tilted. The extended line of this beer sits at the edge of the format on the harmonic grid of the earth square. Rembrandt's soul lines (in purple) point at 30 ° (in green) the same corner of the earth square, at 19 ° the soul of his wife Saskia, and at 45 ° (orange) and 36 ° (yellow ) both inches.

REMBRANDT and Saskia, the beer line joins the square earth format

Rembrandt brandishes a tilted glass of beer (in purple) which points to the grid of the earth square on the format

Rembrandt and Saskia, soul lines pointing to the tilted beer and the earth square.

Rembrandt's soul lines that point to the earth square and the tilted beer format.

These lines support the feeling of intoxicating love that not only provides beer, but above all the tender relationship of soul to soul that Rembrandt maintains with his wife.

Spiritual drunkennesse with Crivelli

The discovery of this work was a great moment of shared joy: while we were visiting the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin with my family, my son Colin came running to me, asking me to come quickly to see a painting where "there is wine tilted ! ". My excitement was at its height because it was the first time that I discovered a religious scene using this iconographic process of " tilted alcohol " - moreover, with a monumental painting by Crivelli produced with extreme care .

Carlo CRIVELLI, Mary Jesus and apostles, 1480, Berlin, photo gm

Carlo CRIVELLI - Marie Jésus et apôtres - 1480 - Gemäldegalerie Berlin - Photo guy mauchamp -

Attracted by our agitation, a guardian of the museum approaches, curious to see so much enthusiasm. I show her, using a string, that the wine is tilted so as to point the precious stone further on the forehead of Jesus, a stone which is the same color as the wine (drawn in orange below ). Our joy is then shared with pleasure by the guardian, illustrating through experience a little of what can be a spiritual intoxication !

CRIVELLI, the tilted wine points to the stone on Jesus' forehead, and the corner of the format

CRIVELLI - The tilted wine, extended in orange, points to the stone on the forehead of Jesus. The chalice axis points to the right corner of the table format.

The golden harmonic grid positions the lid of the wine chalice and three points of the 1st rule: the point of the soul of Jesus on his forehead, a stigma on the hand of Saint Francis, and the finger of a monk. This golden grid also conditions the location of the characters and the decor.

Iconographic anthology of tilted wine

Do not hesitate to leave your comment, your questions at the bottom of the page, my pleasure is to be able to exchange with you on the pictorial composition. Thank you.



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