Tijdens de Renaissance werd de chique kliek al afgerekend op het soort wijnglazen dat werd gebruikt. Die namen, omstreeks 1600, de meest bizarre vormen aan. Er waren ook ongeschreven regels voor het hanteren van die glazen. Aan de manier waarop viel de plaats van man of vrouw aan een banquet af te lezen. Prinsessen hield hun pink omhoog, terwijl de hoogste adellijke aanwezige het glas in de volle hand mocht nemen. Dat gedoe over de aanpak van wijnglazen duurt nog steeds voort. Beatrix pakte nooit een glas bij het steeltje, maar bij de kelk. Onze medewerker meldt:
‘During the Renaissance, Drinking Wine Was a Fight Against Physics
This historic item is on display in Gallery 238 of The Art Institute of Chicago.
What you see isn’t a candy dish, or a cake stand. It’s a wine glass, circa 1600, from Venice, Italy.
If you attended a banquet at the house of an Italian lord, you’d be handed one of these, filled to the brim with red wine. You’d be expected to lift it by wrapping three fingers around the base, and raise it to your lips without spilling a drop. The whole process should look effortless.
Sound tough? The difficulty was the point. Courtiers were expected to embody the ideal of “sprezzatura,” a hard-to-translate word that combines the senses of elegance, sophistication, and nonchalance. In other words, you were supposed to be good at everything, without ever seeming to put any effort into it. What could be a better demonstration of sprezzatura than casually raising one of these sloshing, top-heavy goblets and taking a sip?
Even at the time, these bizarre glasses mystified visitors to Italy, such as the Englishman Richard Lassels, who wrote that “the Italians that love to drink leisurely, they have glasses that are almost as large and flat as silver plates, and almost as uneasy to drink out of.” But to those in the know, even subtle distinctions in how you held your glass could reveal your place in the social hierarchy. At least, that’s what the 17th-century artist Gerard de Lairesse implied in his best-selling manual for painters—he writes that a princess should be depicted “drawing warily and agreeably the little finger” from the glass, while her lady-in-waiting “fearful of spilling, holds the glass handily, yet less agreeably than the other.” The difference between royalty and mere gentility is the lift of a pinky.
Paolo Veronese's "The Wedding at Cana" shows several of these wine glasses. Try zooming in on the bottom-left and bottom-right corners.