Lenox Hill Spring Gala Table
Tulipomania Through the Lens of a Turkish Sultan
I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to create a table at Lenox Hill's Spring Gala event this past spring. The overall theme this year was "A Spring Affair". Designers were asked to create a table inspired by this theme.
Remembering an enchanting tale I had read in Michael Pollan's "Botany of Desire", I decided to base my table on the elaborate Tulip festivals he had described. They were held by the 18thc. Turkish Sultan Ahmed every April during the evening, under the full moon. The Sultan placed caged songbirds along the perimeter of his enclosed garden to provide music. Large tortoises were affixed with grand candles on their shells so they would illuminate the tulips along their meandering way. Mirrors were placed strategically to echo and double the tulips in their grandeur. Each of these elements were incorporated in my table design as motifs and many became a character seated at the table.
I was very grateful to have Emily Thompson and her team on board for the collaboration and execution of the floral centerpiece. Emily is a seasoned pro at this event and encouraged me to dream big and build high as even tall centerpieces are easily dwarfed by Cipriani's vaulted ceilings. In her flower genius, she concepted a plan to manipulate the necks of the tulips in effect emulating the mania of the Sultan's obsession. I was so lucky to have Joshua Werber and Sophia Moreno-Bunge on the scene, courtesy of ETF to create the enchanting garden greenery and make the center piece bloom. You can follow both Joshua and Sophia's work on Instagram @controlledchaosllc and @wafflesoph.
I constructed a tulip shaped vessel using paper mache and a round stacked cake-like base that acted as a support for 18th century gilt frames provided by Lowy Framing and Restoration. I fit them with antique mirror and placed them, as the Sultan had, each with a tulip in front to double their reflections. Within the "leaves"of the tulip vessel I created portraits of the characters stories, in the style of Levni, the court painter during the reign of Sultan Ahmed.
The Sultan presides over the table on one side, flanked by the ladies of the court on either side, the Falconer and in one scene, the illuminating tortoises can be seen meandering by.
I found the perfect plates which were, not surprisingly, by my favorite designer of all time, Tony Duquette. They were red "tortoise" print with ocular & star center, and absolutely divine. Hutton Wilkinson was every so kind and generous as to recommend the lovely people at Mottahedeh to allow me to borrow these for the event. If that weren't enough magic for one table, L'objet graciously loaned me a set of their golden bird place card holders. My friends Oskar Torres-Lam and Jimmy Herrera Ariza at Antique Textile Gallery loaned me a BEAUTIFUL 19th c. suzani to use on the table. The generosity in this community is overwhelming. It just doesn't get any better than this folks.