I love the musée Nissim Camondo on the edge of Parc Monceau. Such beauty, such history, such pathos. The museum is managed by le musée des Arts décoratifs. Currently, there’s an installation that recreates a luncheon given by Moïse de Camondo on June 9, 1933 for le Club des Cent, an exclusive group that focused on gastronomy. It was formed in 1912 and continues to meet on Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:30 each week. Their normal venue is Maxim’s. As you’d expect from the name, there are 100 members at any given time. No woman has ever been accepted for membership.
Camondo joined le Club in 1925. A few times a year, he gave a lunch for thirty of his fellow members at his gorgeous home. Of course, everything had to be perfect, and the beautifully decorated dining room certainly reflects the attention to detail lavished on the original event. The 18th century porcelain decorated with a blue carnation is from the factory founded by the prince de Condé to supply the château de Chantilly.
The items on the table, however, are not original to the house. When Camondo bequeathed his home to serve as a museum after the death of his son, he did not include items he considered to be part of the daily life of the household – the household linens, the table wear, the pots and pans in the kitchen, and his clothing – all of these were given to his daughter, Béatrice.
While the house and its contents were protected from the Nazi’s by a Hague Convention, Béatrice’s belongings were not. When she and her family were shipped to concentration camps, where they all perished, their belongings were fair game. In order to recreate this dinner, therefore, companies that still make goods just as beautiful as the originals have loaned their best. Puiforcat loaned the sterling silver, the crystal is from Saint-Louis, and the linens are from D. Porthault.
The installation is called La table dressée (lah tabluh dressay), which means “the set table.” The expression I’m more used to is mettre la table or “to set the table.” I like the idea of a table being dressed, rather than merely “set,” like a beautiful woman done up for a dinner party – but not with the all-boys Club des Cent. The installation is open until February 24, 2013.