Queen Elizabeth might have turned down the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston invitation to the opening dinner celebrating "High Society: The Portraits of Franz X. Winterhalter," but she did agree to loan a number of her Winterhalters to the exhibition, which is on view through August 2016.
She missed a lovely evening.
A string trio performed in the Upper Brown Pavilion of the Caroline Wiess Law Building while special guests perused the lavish 19th century paintings of European royalty and the collection of beautifully embellished Charles Worth gowns from the period. Lead underwriters Nancy and Rich Kinder joined Lynne and Joe Hudson, Laurie and Reed Morian, and Joanna and Rusty Wortham in the preview that had guests swooning over the masterful brush stokes and wondering how on earth ladies of the era could squeeze their frames into the tiny gowns.
A candlelight dinner from City Kitchen followed in a salon of the museum's Beck building during which museum director Gary Tinterow and Helga K. Aurisch, curator of European Art at the MFAH and organizing curator of the exhibition, offered insights.
"In my view, arbiters of style are self-made, not born," Tinterow said adding that seldom were the subjects of Winterhalter's works as beautiful in real life as they appeared on his canvases.
Aurisch spoke of the seven-year exhibition in the making that as Tinterow noted "was born and bred in Houston" as a result of the purchase of a Winterhalter for the MFAH.
Among those savoring the luscious evening were Lynn and Pete Coneway, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Anne and Charles Duncan, Prince Tassilo Metternich-Sandor of Austria, Jim Weaver, and French consul general Sujiro Seam and Jane Seam.