Nobody demonstrated more of a fondness for wine served chilled than the Venetians. In the first half of the 16th century, they developed “ice glass,” whose fractured surface suggests an extreme case of condensation, resulting from the frigidity of the beverage supposedly contained within.

Before the invention of the refrigerator in the 19th century, food or beverages could be served cold only through vast expenditures of time and money. Thus, such cooling served as an extreme example of conspicuous consumption, which was much frowned upon by Northern Protestant moralists. Nonetheless, a whole repertoire of applied arts was created to respond to the dubious cooling needs of the very rich, including cisterns, monteiths, and wine coolers or pails for bottles and wineglasses.

Christopher Monkhouse
Eloise W. Martin Curator and Chair, Department of European Decorative Arts

Francisco Durantino. Wine Cistern, 1553. Mary Waller Langhorne Endowment.