Monday, January 12, 2015

An Exotic Fantasy


Bear with me as I give you the back-story to this blog post. A month or so ago, I read decorative arts historian Haydn Williams's fascinating new book, Turquerie, with the intention of reviewing it on my blog.  After I realized that the book had been featured in most shelter magazines, I decided that any review of mine would simply be redundant.  I encourage you, though, to get a copy of Turquerie and read it.  The book, which explores the 18th-century European fascination with Turkish culture and its influence on the decorative arts, is enthralling, but it's the text that makes it so.  The book's images, no matter how sumptuous they are, will only tell you a fraction of the story.

Shortly after reading Turquerie, I read Valentino: At the Emperor's Table.  That book, of course, is about the designer's passion for entertaining, table settings, and luxurious china, crystal, and flatware.  So, with Turkish fantasy and Valentino on the brain, I started to think about the designer's 1971 party (photos of which are seen here) that celebrated the opening of his New York boutique.  The party, which was held at The Pierre, was meant to be a "Scheherazade fantasy", according to the House & Garden article in which these photos appeared.  But once I read on, I realized that the party didn't totally stay true to its Persian roots.  (Scheherazade, of course, was the Persian Queen and storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights.)  The party also featured Indian furniture, "Oriental" prints, a Chinese buffet, and Turkish coffee.  The article even made reference to "Little Egypt".  It seems that the party's décor and food borrowed from a number of exotic lands and cultures, something which made it one big fantasy.  And if you read Turquerie, you'll learn that this creative approach to exoticism isn't new.  When it came to 18th-century exotic-themed art or décor, for example, it was often fantasy that trumped cultural accuracy.

Now you understand why I have been pondering Valentino's party at The Pierre, not to mention the event's elaborate decor .  I have to say that it looked like quite a party, if the first photo is any indication.  Valentino, Oscar and Françoise de la Renta, Barbra Streisand, and Nan Kempner seated together on one banquette. It doesn't get much better than that.

















12 comments:

  1. how interesting + no, does not get any better than that. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  2. Hello Jennifer, I love all of the 60's-70's photos you show us, and these are some of the best--all those saturated colors and patterns! I have to get a copy of Turquerie; this topic interests me, especially as it influences 19th century American architecture. Also, I once wrote a post about the musical instrument known as the Turkish crescent, which was another facet of the general love for things Turkish.
    --Jim

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    1. Jim, I believe that you will enjoy Turquerie. The Turkish crescent motif is discussed throughout.

      -Jennifer

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  3. A party filled with luxury and fantasy, not to mention a stellar guest list! Gorgeous, Jennifer!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Featuring "Inner Spaces"

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    1. Thank you, Karena! Happy New Year.

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  4. My goodness- like something out of a dream! What an amazing night that must have been!!
    xo. Leslie
    Segreto Finishes

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    1. Leslie, I agree. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall that night.

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  5. Seeing those photographs again makes it clear that a little Turkquerie goes a long way! It's interesting to speculate on what might define particular eras in terms of taste. Wasn't it around that period when Billy Baldwin created the distinctly odd (for him, that is) blue and white penthouse living room for the Harding Lawrences? Though by comparison with Valentino's party décor Billy's version of Turquerie was downright restrained....

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    1. Toby, The designer of this party, Marilyn Evins, must have relished her task. She certainly took a maximalist approach to the exotic décor, but I suppose anything less would not have impressed the fashion crowd.

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  6. Anonymous12:45 AM

    I'd be very interested in your take on the book Turquerie, no matter the coverage elsewhere. The images in the book - maay from the 18th century - are quite different from the party pictures in this post. The images in Turquerie are luscious and really sophisticated - what do you think of it? Thank you.

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    1. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I thought that the author explored such a unique and fascinating thread in European cultural history. I agree with you that the book images are rich and sophisticated, so much so that even if a reader is not interested in 18th-century history, the reader might still learn much from studying the images.

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