A wine glass used around 1600 CE made drinking wine a challenge. The wine glass was from Venice, Italy. It looks like a cake stand. Is that supposed to hold wine? Apparently, the difficulty of drinking from it is the point. People who attended banquets in Italy were supposed to be good at doing everything effortlessly, as Atlas Obscura detailed:
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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.
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.
image via Atlas Obscura