What better way to start off the New Year than by popping open a bottle of your favorite Champagne? The tradition of beginning each year with a glass of bubbly has been around for hundreds of years. Champagne has been the drink of choice for kings and queens, princes and princesses, and even a royal mistress or two since the 17th century when it emerged as a beautiful, sparkling white wine.
Antique French Champagne Coupes
This king of wines and wine of kings, known as Champagne, was especially adored and appreciated by the House of Bourbon. King Louis XIV was prescribed a daily dose by his doctor, and drank Champagne at every meal for almost his entire life. Madame de Pompadour, the famous mistress of Louis XV, was one of the most loyal customers of the French Champagne house, Moët & Chandon, and was the muse for their limited edition Rosé Capsule collection. A lover of all things beautiful, she is quoted as saying, “Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it.” She should know! She had exquisite taste — in everything from fine champagne to interior design. But it's Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI, who comes to mind at the mention of the Champagne coupe!
According to legend, Louis XVI commissioned a 65-piece set of dishes to be designed by the French porcelain house Sèvres for L’Hameau de la Reine. Included in the dish set were four jatte-téton, breast bowls designed specifically for the drinking of milk, that were said to be molded from Marie Antoinette’s left breast. Those breast cups merely served as one more weapon in the fight to portray Marie Antoinette as a decadent, insatiable Queen — fond of throwing wild parties in her rustic hamlet at Versailles. While there was a typical working dairy on the property, there was also a laiterie d’agrément or pleasure dairy. This pleasure dairy, to the displeasure of the poor commoners, was a beautifully appointed salon decorated in all white marble and other excess where Marie and her ladies-in-waiting could dress up as milkmaids and frolic all day — without ever having to get their hands or perfectly coiffed hairstyles dirty! This maddened the less fortunate working class.
L'Hameau de la Reine
Since there were only four breast bowls created to drink from, those hoping to perpetuate the myth of the depraved courtesan seized upon the idea that she wanted her court to toast her health by drinking from Champagne coupes molded from her breast instead. Although portraits show Marie Antoinette’s breasts as small and round, like the Champagne coupe, the petite glass was actually designed by a Benedictine monk and made in England around 1663 — over 100 years before her birth!. There is, in fact, no truth to any of the rumors! That they still persist, however, speaks volumes to the perceived sexiness of the famous (or infamous) coupe glass. It was, after all, the Champagne vessel of choice in Europe for nearly 300 years before becoming insanely popular in the United States with the likes of flapper girls and Hollywood royalty. Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Eva St. Marie, Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, and Humphrey Bogart are just a few of the many famed celebrities filmed or photographed with a coupe glass in hand.
Cary Grant drinking from a coupe glass / Image Credit: North by Northwest, 1959
Today, those petite, tapered bowls of glass that sit atop a long, thin stem with a circular base have come full circle. They are now considered the preferred glass for serving many a Champagne cocktail or craft cocktail. Cheers to that!
When this self-described Francophile is not reading or writing about all things French, she's dreaming up charming new ways to showcase Lolo French Antiques et More or traveling to France with Lolo to buy delightful treasures for their store. Mimi, Lolo, and their new French Bulldog, Duke, live in Birmingham, AL.