Bunch of Grapes, Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann
Bunch of Grapes
Back to top

Max Beckmann

Bunch of Grapes, April 25, 1944

265 x 370 mm
Physical Description
Pen and black ink over pencil on laid paper
Inventory Number
Object Number
16806 Z
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

When Beckmann created this pen-and-ink drawing of a 'Bunch of Grapes' in the spring of 1944, he had already been living in exile in Amsterdam for almost seven years. The dreamlike scene shows a tired old coachman, with a young woman at his side, transporting a huge bunch of grapes by horse and cart. Contrasting with this fantasy is an advertising column with poster images illustrating social life at the time.

The highlighted, almost shining grapes can be seen as a metaphor for the sixty-year-old artist's own existential issues. Although he was living in an unsafe location and tormented by convalescence, sleeplessness and the fear of an impending call-up for military service, Beckmann was nonetheless unwilling to leave Europe at that time. His 'Bunch of Grapes' recalls the Old Testament verses describing how spies went out into the Promised Land, where milk and honey flowed, and returned with an enormous cluster of grapes as proof of the region's fertility (Numbers 13). Another, earlier work by Beckmann in which crossing a bridge describes a seemingly contrary interpretation of people starting out for the day is his etching 'The Morning'. In the radiant light of the rising sun, three generations on an empty waggon have set off for a day's work over what in those days was the Wilhelmsbrücke in Frankfurt. In this later drawing, by contrast, the distance already travelled seems vague and it is uncertain where the journey will lead.

Like the watercolour 'Early Man - Primeval Landscape', the 'Bunch of Grapes' once belonged to the Munich-born art historian Jane Sabersky (1911-1983). She emigrated to the US in 1939, where she initially worked as an assistant to the art dealer Curt Valentin and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Immediately after Beckmann's arrival in the US she accompanied him to his first photo session in front of his triptych 'Departure'[1] and soon joined the German-speaking circle of close friends around Curt Valentin and Hanns Swarzenski. After Beckmann and his wife moved from Saint Louis to New York in 1949, they chatted "rather more about art", danced "also with Jane", celebrated New Year together and ate excellent "red cabbage and roast pork", and also translated "the speech to friends and the Faculty of Philosophy at Washington University in Saint Louis", which Beckmann gave when he accepted an honorary doctorate there in 1950.[2]

[1] Tagebücher, 12.9.1947.

[2] Tagebücher, 31.8.1949, 25.12.1949, 31.12.1949, 20.3.1950, 14.5.1950; Ansprache 1950, pp. 75-76.

Work Data

Basic Information

Bunch of Grapes
Production Place
Period Produced
Object Type
Physical Description
Pen and black ink over pencil on laid paper
Geographic Reference
Production Reason
Label at the Time of Manufacture
Signiert unten rechts (mit der Feder in Schwarz): Beckmann; verso datiert und bezeichnet unten rechts (mit Bleistift): "die Weintraube" 25. April 44 / A'dam
Captions Added Later
Verso Stempel des Städelschen Kunstinstituts, Frankfurt am Main (Lugt 2356)

Property and Acquisition

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Eigentum des Städelschen Museums-Vereins e.V.
Picture Copyright
Public Domain

Work Content

Motifs and References

Main Motif
Illustrated Passage
  • Bibel, Altes Testament, Numeri 13,17-27


  • 71E3152 the spies take away some of the fruits of Canaan and return, usually carrying a large bunch of grapes on a pole
  • 71E31521 the grapes of Canaan
  • 47I4223 grape
  • 46C145 (farm) wagon, freight wagon, cart
  • 31AA235 sitting figure - AA - female human figure
  • 31A235 sitting figure
  • 31B12 sleeping in chair

Research and Discussion


Object History
Jane Sabersky (1912-1983), New York
Jan A. Ahlers (1934-2013), Herford
Kunsthandel Deutschland
erworben durch den Städelschen Museums-Verein e. V., Frankfurt am Main, 2003.


Since 2001, the Städel Museum has systematically been researching the provenance of all objects that were acquired during the National Socialist period, or that changed owners or could have changed owners during those years. The basis for this research is the “Washington Declaration”, also known as the “Washington Conference Principles”, formulated at the 1998 “Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets” and the subsequent “Joint Declaration”.

The provenance information is based on the sources researched at the time they were published digitally. However, this information can change at any time when new sources are discovered. Provenance research is therefore a continuous process and one that is updated at regular intervals.

Ideally, the provenance information documents an object’s origins from the time it was created until the date when it found its way into the collection. It contains the following details, provided they are known:

  • the type of acquisition and/or the way the object changed hands
  • the owner's name and place of residence
  • the date on which it changed hands

The successive ownership records are separated from each other by a semicolon.

Gaps in the record of a provenance are indicated by the placeholder “…”. Unsupported information is listed in square brackets.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact the museum at .

More to discover



Do you have any suggestions, questions or information about this work?

Last update