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.