Baron Philippe is the first person to have artists paint his wine labels. It may have started when he married his second wife, Pauline Fairfax, in 1954. She was an American decorator, and they designed a private museum of rare artworks from around the world. Baron Philippe was an art enthusiast and befriended some of the most famous artists, such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali, to name a few.
He came up with the idea of having his artist friends create artwork for his wine labels. He wanted this to become a tradition, giving the artists complete freedom to create whatever they wanted for the labels. Over the years, specific themes were followed, like vines, the pleasure of drinking, and the ram emblem.
The harvest of the 1945 vintage was seen as a mini-miracle because it survived the chaos and tragedy of the second world war. It’s believed that Baron Philippe wanted to celebrate this by putting beautiful artwork on his wine labels.
The first artwork was commissioned by an unknown designer named Philippe Jullian. Baron wanted a label that represented a new beginning and celebrated the end of the war. Jullian’s artwork is simplistic but perfectly fits the wine and celebration of the war. Jullian made a vine with leaves that form around a giant golden V, with 1945 and the phrase Annee de la Victoire.
Even though Philippe Jullian was the first to start the tradition of Artists’ Series, it is rarely told. Though the Artists’ Series began in 1945, Baron had a one-off label in 1924, commissioned by Jean Carlu.
Artist Salvador Dali designed a label in 1958, Henry Moore created one in 1964, and Marc Chagall designed one in 1970. Even the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, designed a label for Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
All artworks completed for the labels are displayed in the Labels Room at the Chateau for exhibition. These vintages are being auctioned off, starting at $4000 and going as high as $20,000.
Baron Philippe believed art and wine went together, and this is true. Winemaking is a work of art, and the maturity of wine in the bottle is another kind of art. It takes time, patience, and technique.
If you come across one of these famous labels, know this was created by one of the most prestigious designers, and take time to enjoy the label before the wine.