At the Universal Exhibition of 1889, Emile Gallé made the acquaintance of the poet Robert de Montesquiou. The two men were very close until one fateful day in June 1897 when they became embroiled in one of the quarrels that customarily put an end to friendships with the very touchy count.
In the meantime, at the beginning of 1893, Gallé had given Montesquiou Mysterious Grapes. As Montesquiou had asked him why, Gallé wrote: "In what capacity have you been sent this crystal by me, when it has so long been destined for you? As a Poet. Why? Because 'Your song is a fulsome refuge for me'. I am grateful to you because, before delighting the world with them, you sent your harmonious verses to me; they give my tools dreams and lend wings to the material which suddenly throbs with life."
Gallé wished to thank the man whose poetry fired his imagination. In his turn, he sent Montesquiou a poem fashioned from crystal. The artist's debt is written on it twice: in a dedication under the flask and in four lines engraved on the body of the bottle, taken from Monstrances, the eighty-fourth piece in The Bats, published in 1892.
Technically, the vase is a scholarly, studied piece, both in the composition of the material and in the fashioning of the décor. Its style is influenced by Chinese pierre dure vases and medieval sources, as the stand evokes a capital in a Gothic cathedral.
But its success derives more particularly from Gallé's ability to suggest a natural phenomenon: the ripening of the grapes in the sunshine (gold and platinum flecks), their transformation into a heady liquor (the range of purplish tones) then into alcoholic vapour, (the opalescent swirls on the stopper).