Dining in Black-Tie Splendor

Grandiose ballroom setting backdrop for city's most elegant black-tie dinner

Glam ballroom setting backdrop for city's most elegant black-tie

Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Luke and Christiana McConn; Marilyn and Christopher Winters
Rienzi Society dinner chairs Luke and Christiana McConn, Marilyn and Christopher Winters. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Mark McConn; Maddie Britt; Douglas McConn;
Mark McConn, Maddie Britt,  Douglas McConn. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Cindy Thorp; Ann Wolpert; Isla Jornayvaz
Cindy Thorp, Ann Wolpert, Isla Jornayvaz. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Stephanie Tucker, Brad Tucker
Stephanie Tucker, Brad Tucker. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Pat Breen, Cyvia Wolff
Pat Breen, Cyvia Wolff. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016,
The Rienzi formal ballroom dressed for society dinner. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, John Cotts, Colleen Cotts
John Cotts, Colleen Cotts.  Photo by jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Gary Tinterow, Margaret Williams
Gary Tinterow, Margaret Alkek Williams.  Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Ed and Cathy Frank; Jenny Elkins; Will Bowen;
Ed Frank, Cathy Frank, Jenny Elkins, Will Bowen. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Cyvia Wolff, Jeanie Kilroy Wilson, Melvyn Wolff
Cyvia Wolff, Jeanie Kilroy Wilson, Melvyn Wolff. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Christine Gervais; Carolyn Rosenstock-Ellis; Valerie Greiner
Christine Gervais, Carolyn Rosenstock-Ellis, Valerie Greiner. Photo by Jenny Antill
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Luke and Christiana McConn; Marilyn and Christopher Winters
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Mark McConn; Maddie Britt; Douglas McConn;
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Cindy Thorp; Ann Wolpert; Isla Jornayvaz
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Stephanie Tucker, Brad Tucker
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Pat Breen, Cyvia Wolff
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016,
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, John Cotts, Colleen Cotts
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Gary Tinterow, Margaret Williams
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Ed and Cathy Frank; Jenny Elkins; Will Bowen;
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Cyvia Wolff, Jeanie Kilroy Wilson, Melvyn Wolff
Rienzi society dinner, Feb. 2016, Christine Gervais; Carolyn Rosenstock-Ellis; Valerie Greiner

The record turnout of 104 formally-attired guests for the Rienzi Society annual dinner called for a different approach to seating than in the previous 15 years. Four banquet style tables, dressed in a French blue and crystal motif and laced with flowers, were centered in the grand ballroom of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston house museum of decorative arts.

Inspired by the grand ballrooms in English country houses, not unlike Downton Abbey, it was a setting fit for blue bloods and, indeed, the Rienzi Society is comprised of leaders of the city's old guard.

In years past, the elite Rienzi Society membership dined at smaller tables spread throughout the formal areas of the John Staub-designed house that is filled with priceless European antiques.

On this evening, as is tradition, members voted from several options on the purchase of a work to add to the collection. Wining the hearts and pocketbooks of the society was a portrait of Archduchess MariaAmalia of Austria, Duchess of Parma.

Christiana and Luke McConn and Marilyn and Christopher Winters chaired the dinner that raised $303,000 for the collection of European decorative arts and paintings that are displayed in the former of the late Carroll Sterling (Christiana's grandmother) and Harris Masterson III.

This was Katherine Howe's final dinner as Rienzi founding director. She announced her retirement last month. In her honor, guests raised their glasses in a champagne toast.

Elizabeth Swift's Swift + Company created the regal setting and provided the elegant dinner that included fried quail salad, a main course of petit filet and herb-roasted shrimp and assorted bite-sized desserts.

The sophisticated crowd of Rienzi patrons included MFAH director Gary Tinterow and Christopher Gardner, Isla and Tommy Reckling, Randi and Johnny Carrabba, Nancy Allen, Eddie Allen, Ann Trammell, Carroll Goodman, Rosslyn and Marshall Crawford, Elise and James Reckling, Margaret Wilson Reckling, Melissa and Doug Schnitzer, Mary Eliza and Park Shaper and Eleni and Thad Fuller. 

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