A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Were champagne glasses modeled on the breasts of Madame de Pompadour?

September 27, 1985

Dear Cecil:

An old friend of mine feels you are the one person who can provide a definitive answer concerning the origin of the popular saucer-shaped champagne glass. His father has always maintained that the original saucers were modeled on the breasts of Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566), the mistress of Henry II. She commissioned the glassblower at their Chateau d'Anet to make them as a present to Henry, who was particularly enamored of her breasts and harbored a fantasy to drink wine from them. (Champagne had not yet been invented.) Imagine my friend's consternation during a recent tour of the Moet & Chandon establishment in Rheims when the Moet staff recounted a close facsimile of this story only changing the cast of characters to read Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), Louis XV, and, naturally, champagne. Cecil, whose knockers are being commemorated?

Cecil replies:

Take your pick, Jake. There are lots of versions of this story floating around. A writer named Maurice des Ombiaux bestows the honor on no less than Helen of Troy. Supposedly the gods were so enamored of Helen's chichibangas that they decided to have the shepherd Paris make a wax cast, whence to make goblets. Quoth Maurice:

Helen appeared with her attendants, looking as radiant as Phoebe among the stars … The veil which covered her bosom was lifted and one of the two globes was revealed, pink as the dawn, white as the snows of Mount Rhodopus, smooth as the goat's milk of Arcadia … With wax provided by the golden daughters of Hymettus, the shepherd Paris … took the cast of the breast, which looked like a luscious fruit on the point of falling into a gardener's hand. When Paris had removed the wax cast, the attendants hastened to replace the veil over Helen's gorgeous breast, but not before her admirers had glimpsed a teat whose freshness was as tempting as a strawberry.

Clearly, this was a woman who made a good first impression. I've also heard that four porcelain champagne glasses molded from the breast of Marie Antoinette were kept at the Queen's Dairy Temple at the chateau de Rambouillet, and that one remains today with the Antique Company of New York. Looking at the question objectively, however, I think we'd have to agree that the female breast, however interesting in situ, would make for a singularly misshapen champagne glass. But you know how it is with these male fantasies.

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