An homage to a historic friendship. Stylish celebrities. An opulent charity dinner. We are talking about the grand Tiepolo Ball held earlier this month. Co-hosted by Dior and not-for-profit Venetian Heritage Foundation at the spectacular Palazzo Labia in Venice, the gala was perfectly timed to mark the opening of the Venice Biennale and aimed to raise funds to support and preserve the Venetian cultural heritage.
In 1951, Charles de Bristegui, a passionate second-generation art collector and decorator, choreographed a lavish masquerade ball. It was held at the frescoed ballroom of Venice’s Palazzo Labia, which Bristegui owned at the time and had restored to its current glory. Everyone who was anyone was in attendance — from royalty and aristocrats to socialites, artists and designers. The bewigged host of this ‘Le Bal Oriental: Ball of the Century’ dressed in high heels and a regal robe welcomed guests. Interestingly, the opening of the festivities was announced by Christian Dior and Salvador Dali. And around 30 gorgeous dresses at this high-society ball were designed by Pierre Cardin.
This year, Dior hosted its own Tiepolo Ball to bring to life the glitz of the Oriental Ball and the art of elaborate party-throwing. The night was filled with glamour and high fashion and ended the event’s 68-year hiatus. Keeping the ethos akin to the original soirée, Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri dreamed up custom-made gowns in collaboration with two traditional Venetian houses, Bevilacqua and Rubelli.
Couture and Couturiers
The charity gala was dedicated to the emblematic frescoes by artist Giambattista Tiepolo, which in turn, celebrate the incredible culture of Venice, its traditions and its ties with the French maison. Venetian heritage textile designers, Bevilacqua and Rubelli were deeply involved in reviving 19th-century textiles scoured from the archives of the fashion house and in developing original velvets.
On the elegant evening of 11 May, scores of Riva speedboats ferried guests into the Palazzo. Celebrities including Karlie Kloss, Sienna Miller and Monica Bellucci adorned Dior haute couture creations inspired by paintings of the Venetian artist, Pietro Longhi.
Each ornate costume in noble fabrics was reminiscent of Christian Dior’s love for ball gowns and capes. Sienna Miller’s shimmering strapless bustier dress in velvet was handwoven by Bevilacqua. A grey taffeta cape completed her look. Monica Bellucci and Dasha Zhukova were in Dior floral bustier robes with glamorous cloaks.
Any dinner soirée would be incomplete without table dressing and decadent preparations equally worthy of the night. Extravagant furnishings and beautifully laid-out tables can be credited to Fortuny, the Venetian fabric maker. For the ball, the legendary creator pulled out fabrics from its archives and produced them in its century-old factory on the island of Giudecca.
Additionally, Cordelia de Castellane, artistic director of Dior Maison, designed a series of unique plates that blended seamlessly with the varied themes of the rooms and imposing decorations, which included huge glass candelabras and ceramic parrots. Guests dined on sumptuous preparations by Master Chef Silvio Giavedoni from Michelin-starred restaurant Quadri in St Mark’s Square.
Another highlight of the evening was a magical performance by the Italian-Croatian artist Parolablanca. Combining dance, theatre, music and writing, the artistic showcase featured dancers and stilt walkers wearing jumpsuits with reflective and luminous details. These dresses by Chiuri and Italian artist Pietro Ruffo represented the night sky and the 12 signs of the zodiac.
A post-dinner benefit auction at the Palazzo Labia raised funds for the restoration of the monumental staircase designed by the architect Mauro Codussi in 13-century Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista and the iconic fresco Castigo dei Serpenti by Giambattista Tiepolo in Venice’s Galleria dell’Accademia.