Taking its cue from Veronese’s lavish Wedding at Cana (1563), this article explores the meanings of fine and ordinary glassware, focusing on the performative value of Renaissance goblets. Drinking vessels are analyzed here as tools for the gradual transformation of human behavior, or the ‘Civilizing Process’ that sociologist Norbert Elias expounded. In the mid-sixteenth century, new designs for fine glasses supported and shaped the proper conduct expected of guests and servants in banquets. Iconographic sources such as the exquisite wine cups depicted by Veronese, didactic literature and the objects themselves document the kind of challenges and expectations that handling glass in public induced. By the end of the sixteenth century, the affordability of simple but elegant goblets allowed common people to adopt the drinking manners of the elite, thus furthering the association between glassware and the concept of civility.
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