ROME (REUTERS) – A very long table that drew world attention when Russian President Vladimir Putin used it for meetings this month with foreign leaders was made in Italy by a small family firm that has also furnished dozens of other rooms in the Kremlin.
The white table – some six metres in length – spawned countless memes on social media last week when Mr Putin hosted French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on the Ukraine crisis, and they sat at each end of the table.
Mr Renato Pologna said the table was just one of many items his firm Oak made for the Kremlin under contract in 1995-1997.
“The table is really the tip of the iceberg. In all, we provided furniture and fittings for around 70 rooms. Some of the other tables are even bigger,” he said.
The scene of Mr Putin and Mr Macron seated so far apart prompted Twitter users to edit the images to depict the table as an ice-rink, a tennis court, a see-saw and even as the one used in Christ’s Last Supper.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin had opted to sit so far away to protect his health after Mr Macron declined to take a Russian Covid-19 test.
The table was again on display on Tuesday when Putin met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
‘The best of Italy’
Mr Pologna said the table top was made from a single sheet of beech wood, supported on three hollowed wooden stands. It is lacquered white and is gold-plated on the side.
“If you wanted to buy something similar today, it would cost around 100,000 euros (S$153,000)” Mr Pologna said. “It was lovely to see photos of the table everywhere. Let’s hope it brings some luck and stops a war (in Ukraine).”
Under the 1990s contract, Oak decorated some 7,000 square metres of the Kremlin, spread out over two floors, including the president’s private residence.
Mr Pologna said the space had been gutted by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, so Russian designers had scoured the archives to recreate the look of the place before the 1917 Russian Revolution, providing Oak with designs for each room.
The contract was worth between 40 and 50 million euros, with all the furniture built in Italy and then flown to Russia, where it was passed through giant scanners to check for bugging devices, before being carried into the Kremlin.
It is the largest single order that Oak has ever had, but Mr Pologna said his company had worked around the globe, including in royal palaces in Brunei and Thailand.
Oak was founded by Mr Pologna’s grandfather and employs some 50 people.
“This is the best of Italy,” he said. “Family businesses which pass on skills and resources from generation to generation.”