Only an Italian could come up with a word like ‘sprezzatura.’ When the 16th-century courtier Baldassare Castiglione coined the term for effortless elegance in his 1528 The Book of the Courtier, he was articulating the appreciation for graceful conversation and refined presentation that has been a defining element of the nation’s culture from the Renaissance until today. 

Buccellati and the art of entertaining

Rendering of Dimorestudio’s dinner table design for ‘Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’
Rendering of Dimorestudio’s design for ’Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’

In celebration of that idea, the historic, Richemont-owned high-jewellery house Buccellati is debuting an exhibition of its dazzling table accessories at Milan Design Week 2022. The tables on display at ‘Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’ have been set by some of the most notable names in modern design – Dimorestudio, Ashley Hicks, Chahan Minassian and Patricia Urquiola – each of whom has been asked to create their own table design using four historical Buccellati silver collections and a new porcelain collection developed in collaboration with Ginori 1735. Meanwhile, the installation design itself has been conceived by celebrated Italian architect Stefano Boeri.

For Buccellati, the exhibition is a much-needed response to our Covid-shaken world, reminding us after two years of isolation just how important gathering around a table can be. Etiquette is the theme of the show but that doesn’t mean it is about where to place your silverware or what dishes to serve. Buccellati is celebrating and encouraging etiquette as Castiglione conceived it – where the dining table becomes a place to savour good food and good conversation in equal measure. 

Sketch of Ashley Hicks’ dinner table design for ’Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’
Sketch of Ashley Hicks’ design for ’Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’

Says the exhibition’s curator Federica Sala: ‘Etiquette is not only good manners, but also kindness and respect. A table today is more about the celebration of conviviality (that we missed so much), the pleasure of a home dinner with friends, and the pleasure of getting to take care of the people we invited. But it is also a matter of having a good conversation and being able to respect other people’s opinion, able to take care of the differences between people and to respect them all.’

In keeping with the Italian ethos of the exhibition, each of the four designers involved has been chosen because they are, in one way or another, a representative of an extended Milanese identity. Yet, their various backgrounds and aesthetic sensibilities mean that each of their creations for the Buccellati exhibition has a distinct flair. Urquiola’s buoyant picnic of bold patterns sits alongside Dimorestudio’s characteristically maximalist and moody club space; while Hicks’ table expresses his taste for eclectic combinations of patterns and Minassian’s design is characterised by a light and airy feel. 

Rendering of Patricia Urquiola’s dinner table design for ’Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’
Rendering of Patricia Urquiola’s design for ’Il Galateo – a journey into conviviality’

The show will take place over the course of Milan Design Week on the terrace of the iconic Piero Portaluppi-designed building that houses Buccellati headquarters. Those not lucky enough to make it to Milan can still take home a bit of the exhibition in the form of the Buccellati and Ginori 1735 ‘Double Rouche – Florence Furnace’ tableware collection, which reimagines Buccellati’s historic silver designs in white, pale green, and cerulean porcelain. §