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Le Cordon Bleu News, 10/17/2014
A snapshot of the history of the art of fine dining…
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By Anne Kolivanoff

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A snapshot of the history of the art of fine dining…
There is an ongoing battle in every aspect of the art of fine dining to have the most unique party table settings, but are you aware of how important table linen used to be?

During the Renaissance, there were relatively few utensils on a dining table.  There was just a board (a round or square piece of metal, the forerunner of the plate), salt, a few spoons and pocket knives that the banquet guests brought with them.  The two-pronged fork only made a very modest appearance under Henry III…

During that period, goblets, glasses, pitchers and bottles were placed on a sideboard for “drinks service”. One of the few decorative elements that brightened up a dining table was the tablecloth and it was given volume by folding it at regular intervals, in flat or raised folds, which gave the impression of the ripples on a river…

At the beginning of the 17th century, “off-white” tablecloths were very much the fashion.  They were pressed into a square, rectangle, or checkerboard, which gave them depth when they came into contact with light.  During the same period, napkins were expertly folded into fruit, bird, or animal shapes…small details such as the heads were made from wax, wood, or bread dough and sewn onto the animal’s body.

These exquisite napkins went on to become purely decorative and numerous documents, with engravings demonstrating folding techniques and hand positions, were printed throughout Europe…

So Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready for this year’s napkin challenge!

Anne Kolivanoff

Anne Kolivanoff

Anne Kolivanoff

After studying law and specializing in the history of art, Anne Kolivanoff earned her diploma as an Art Auctioneer but never actually took up the profession! After trying her hand at antiques dealer and art dealer, she has become a recognized authority and lecturer on the workings of the art market, objets d’art and tableware; she also teaches on a regular basis at the professional training institute attached to the Hotel Drouot in Paris.


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