An off-white table of improbable proportions that has become a bit player in the heightening crisis between Ukraine and Russia is now at the center of a second dispute between sovereign nations.
As reported in the Guardian and elsewhere, Spanish and Italian craftsmen have been bickering over who made the noteworthy, not to say notorious, table.
Social media has been poking fun at the 13-foot-long table since footage emerged of a crisis meeting at the Kremlin last week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, socially distanced at opposite ends of the prodigious plank. (Macron was said to have waved off a Kremlin-administered COVID test.)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, too, found himself at the far side of that elaborate worktop this week:
While the cream-colored 13-footer perched on its troika of pedestals has provided some comic relief at a fraught time in global politics, it’s been no laughing matter for a pair of furniture makers in southern Europe.
First up was Vicente Zaragozá, head of an eponymous furniture company in Alcàsser, Valencia, who reportedly told a Spanish radio station on Tuesday that he instantly recognized the table, describing it as having been made from Alpine white beech, with gold-leaf inlays.
That prompted a withering response from Renato Pologna, owner of a Como, Italy, furniture maker called Oak.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in long-distance dialogue with Russian leader Putin.
alexei nikolsky/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
“This man, who I don’t know, says he made this table in 2005 — therefore, something doesn’t quite add up. As proof we have all the certificates for the work done, and even the recognition of the [Russian] president, who at the time was Boris Yeltsin,” Pologna was quoted as having said. (Yeltsin was in office from June 1991 till New Year’s Eve in 1999.)
The Italian said he performed the manufacturing work in 1995-96 and in addition to his invoices has the photographs, published in Russian books, to prove it. It’s possible, he added, that the Spaniard made a copy of his table and later became confused.
An impassioned Zaragozá , whose company is apparently no longer in business, reportedly wept through an interview, saying the sight of Putin’s table made him feel as though he had “done something worthwhile.” Still, he mentioned his company had made bigger and better tables than the one seen of late at the Kremlin.
So, too, has flat-pack furnishings retailer IKEA, at least in the imagining of one Twitter user:
Perhaps, in all, the awkward visuals resulting from taking a meeting at Putin’s titanic table are preferable to the alternative: