A grey-haired woman with a bottle of Eldorado wine in her right, slippers on her feet and sitting in the mire of Paddy’s Market - it may seem an odd companion for the elegant beauty of a Renaissance masterpiece.

However, a fascinating new exhibition has placed the striking photograph of Glasgow in the 1980s, captured by war correspondent Raymond Depardon, alongside the 16th century genius of German-born Dutch painter Hendrick Goltzius and the 21st century work of Scottish graphic comic artist, Frank Quitely, in a provocative look the positive and negative consequences of the ‘demon drink’.

The unlikely trio of works, including a dramatic imagining by graphic artist Quitely of a famous Islay folk tale, span four centuries of art yet are linked by a common theme – our seemingly unquenchable appetite for a stiff drink.

Demon Drink, at University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Art Gallery, examines themes that include the impacts of consuming alcohol – bringing good times as well as bad - the Temperance movement, indulgence, merry making and the overlap between high art, popular culture and marketing.

It also explores the process of making art and how alcohol-themed works find their way into commercial, social and religious settings – from the well-known Tennent’s Lager Lovelies who adorned the sides of cans in varying stages of undress, to fantasy figures of fairies intended to depict the otherworldly effect of a glass of absinthe.

At the heart of the exhibition is the stunning new artwork depicting the story of the devil on Islay, created for Bowmore whisky by Glasgow-based Quitely, and presented shoulder to shoulder with examples of work by masters of their art such as Goltzius and William Hogarth’s moralising mid-18th century work, Gin Lane, depicting debauched scenes of drunken behaviour.

Best known for his graphic illustrations for DC Marvel to DC Comics, Superman to X-Men, Quitely was challenged to create the new artwork to accompany a new edition of Bowmore whisky said to have distinct infusion resembling candlewax and incense, evoking the legendary tale of the Devil’s visit to Islay.

The ancient myth claims that on a clear evening in 1837, the devil arrived at the round church in Islay, built in preparation for just such a visit and with no corners to hide.

Demented, the devil flees chased by the god-fearing congregation armed with axes, making his way from the church to the Bowmore distillery.

There, the story goes, the devil hid in a barrel, later making his escape from the island on board a paddle steamer laden with casks.

The exhibition follows Quitely’s meticulous process of researching the story and scouring archives on Islay for details of buildings, villagers’ clothes and life on the island in 1837.

The finished work, No Place to Hide, features on the labels and boxes of two releases of limited edition Bowmore single malts.

The exhibition, which runs until mid-September, connects works made at different periods in time and for very different purposes, prompting viewers to rethink how alcohol is depicted in art and why.

Professor Laurence Grove, one of the exhibition curators, said the aim was provoke reaction among viewers into rethinking how alcohol is portrayed, and business and art can interact.

“When you look at Frank’s work, you ask yourself ‘is this business or is this art?’,” he says. “And it is business and art interacting.”

The exhibition also examines the role of women in the way alcohol is marketed, and the messages that are sent to consumers by differing images.

“One image we have is of a beautiful, elegant woman who is in control, she is looking out to the audience pouring a drink, not in any state of undress, very elegant but still erotic,” he says.

“When we look at the Tennent’s Lovely, she is in a champagne bucket – does it suggest that if you drink this a lovely lady with long legs will come and serve you?”

The exhibition includes objects as well as works of art, among them a pamphlet intended to strike fear into the hearts of drinkers prone to over-indulging, 19th and 20th century Temperance Society medals, and a teacup from Miss Cranston’s tearooms in Glasgow – an alternative to the city’s hard-drinking pubs.

There is also a silver flask owned by American artist James McNeill Whistler, who loved Scotch whisky so much, he called it ‘nectar’.

“A Temperance movement pamphlet called Cherries is like the Sliding Doors film,” Prof. Grove adds. “A man gets his pay and buys cherries which he takes home to his family and everyone is happy.

“But on the other side is he gets his pay, drinks it, is destitute, suffers ill health and his family ends in the poorhouse.

“There are also medals from the Temperance Movement which were given to people from Glasgow who will have ‘won’ medals. The idea is this is a war, and if you beat the ‘demon drink’ you receive a medal.”

One of the most provocative elements of the exhibition is the juxtaposition of Goltzius’ Venus, Bacchus and Cere, which shows drink as a convivial aphrodisiac, alongside Glasgow. Scotland. 1980. by acclaimed photographer Raymond Depardon.

Centuries apart, there are echoes of the 16th century artwork in the humble scene of Glaswegian drinkers slumped on the pavement near Paddy’s Market. In the background of both images, flames leap – in Goltzius’ work they are the flames of love fanned by Cupid, in the photograph, burning litter.

“Depardon’s image may look like a pessimistic photograph, but it is about human beings coming together, enjoying company even in the most derelict of surroundings,” Prof. Grove adds.

“The important thing is human beings sharing experiences and alcohol can be a positive for that.”

Demon Drink is at the Hunterian Art Gallery until 18 September.