LENOX — Love is in the air at Ventfort Hall. 

To celebrate, the Gilded Age mansion and museum is hosting "Tables for Two: Famous Couples Celebrate Valentine's Day," through the end of the month. The exhibit, featuring a dozen tables, imagines dinners set for 10 couples and two dinner parties set in different time periods, ranging from 1863 to the present day. Selected diners include historical figures connected to the Berkshires; celebrities and cultural icons and two fictional couples — Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Tarzan and Jane.

"Traditionally, we have a Valentine's Day tea or a Tea and Talk this time of year," said Alice Nathan, events committee chairwoman, during a tour of the exhibit. "Knowing we couldn't do something like that this year [due to COVID-19 limits on gathering], we began thinking of other possibilities. Kelly Blau, our board president, suggested this and we ran with it. It's been so much fun."

Committee members Mary Frances Benko, Claudia Perles, Tom Hayes, Nancy Whelan, Haley Barbieri and Nathan, began brainstorming couples that could be included in the exhibit back in the fall. 

"It was wonderful to think about something other than the pandemic. It just kind of snowballed from there," Nathan said. "We've used our own personal items for most of the exhibit. We mixed and matched things. We only bought a few odds and ends."

Only one table in the exhibit, "A Valentine's Dinner Party at Bellefontaine," includes pieces owned by a member of the "Berkshire Colony" or "Berkshire Cottages" of the Gilded Age. Located on the second floor, the recreated dinner party of Giraud Foster and Jean Van Nest Foster, who owned Bellefontaine (now Canyon Ranch) features dishes, goblets and silver once used by the Foster family at Bellefontaine. 

Drawing from their own collections, the committee members assembled 11 other tables, including one that imagines a dinner party held in honor of financier J. Pierpont Morgan, by his sister, Sarah Spencer Morgan, and her husband, George Hale Morgan, the original owners of Ventfort Hall Mansion. The Morgans also have a private table, "Dinner at their Summer Cottage Ventfort Hall, 1893," dedicated to them. 

"Several of us, like myself, have backgrounds in interior design and antiques," Nathan said. "Mary Frances Benko worked in the Schumacher showroom, so, of course, she had all these beautiful linen tablecloths that are being used."

The vignette "Breakfast at their estate Chequers, Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, 1930s," an homage to Sir Winston Churchill and Lady Clementine Churchill, is set with a green table cloth, a flowered runner, and features a jade-colored teapot and matching plates, cups, creamer and sugar bowl. A pot of marmalade sits with the teapot on a lazy Susan in the center of the table, a gold bell sits within reach of those requiring service.

"The breakfast set was my mother's<' Nathan said. "She liked the rather large tea cups and brought it back from Jamaica with her. I thought it would be a nice breakfast set. Then I just ran with the theme of an English breakfast. I added the bell and purchased cigars to go on the table."

Committee members, she said, added thoughtful touches, such as an engagement ring, trademark sunglasses or photographs — to make each table a visual treasure hunt of sorts. 

"Those little details make each table so much fun to look at," Nathan said. 

Other historical and celebrity couples featured include Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Linda and Cole Porter. 

Read on for a closer look at a few of the dinner parties ...

Tables for Two at Ventfort Hall

Dinner at Ventfort Hall hosted by the Morgans for Lenox Society, with guest of honor, J. Pierpont Morgan, 1893

Sarah Spencer Morgan and George Hale Morgan

Hosting a dinner party for financier and banker J. Pierpont Morgan, one of the richest men in America at the time, required finesse, even if the hostess was his younger sister, Sarah Spencer Morgan. Attention to detail — from the seating chart to the types of cutlery and glassware used during each course — was of utmost importance at a Gilded Age dinner.

At this imagined dinner party in honor of J.P. Morgan, Sarah, and her husband, George Hale Morgan, are entertaining Emily Vanderbilt Sloane and William Sloane, of Elm Court; banker and railroad along with executive Charles Lanier, a close friend of J.P. Morgan, and his wife Sarah Egleston Lanier. Caroline Morgan, Sarah and George's daughter, rounds out the dinner party. Place cards, as decorum dictated, mark the seating arrangements in Ventfort Hall's dining room, where the dark, oblong table is laid out with crystal glasses, silver candlesticks, gilded china and polished silver cutlery. All that's missing is the dinner guests, who, it seems, are just minutes away from arriving.

Tables for Two at Ventfort Hall

Honeymoon and Farewell Dinner at Vent Fort

Annie Haggerty Shaw and Col. Robert Gould Shaw, 1863

An intimate table for two awaits newlyweds Col. Robert Gould Shaw and Annie Haggerty Shaw in Ventfort Hall's billiard room. Elegantly set, the table's decor includes chilled wine and a single rose for the bride.

Before the Morgans arrived in Lenox, the Haggerty family's summer home, Vent Fort, occupied the land that is now home to Ventfort Hall. Elizabeth Kneeland Haggerty and Ogden Haggerty were among the "first generation" of summer homeowners. Their daughter, Annie Haggerty married Shaw on May 2, 1863, in New York City. The newlyweds would spend just four days of their honeymoon at Vent Fort before Shaw was called to Boston. They arrived in Boston on May 9 and said their final goodbyes on May 18, when Shaw took his place at the head of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the second Black infantry raised during the Civil War. Two months later, Shaw would die with the majority of his men at Fort Wagner on Morris Island, S.C. (Shaw portrayed by Matthew Broderick in the 1989 film, "Glory.") Annie Haggerty Shaw, a widow at 28, never remarried. She would spend the summer of 1907, her last, at Vent Fort, which had been relocated to a parcel near the mansion now bearing its name.

Tables for Two at Ventfort Hall

A Honeymoon Tea Ceremony at Kyoto, Japan, 1904

George Denison Morgan and Yuki Kato Morgan 

Paying homage to an unlikely couple — the black sheep of the Morgan family and a famed geisha — is a traditional Japanese tea service for two, including cha-kaiseki, cuisine traditionally served prior to a ceremonial tea.

In January 1904, Yuki Kato, the famed Gion geisha known as Kokyu no Sekka, married into American high society. Her marriage to George Denison Morgan — son of Sarah Spencer Morgan and George Hale Morgan — would ruffle more than a few feathers in both Japan and America. George and his bride (also known as Morgan O-Yuki), left Japan for the United States soon after, but found little acceptance among the Gilded Age-elite. Eventually, the couple found respite, living in Paris, with a group of like-minded Americans. George would die in Spain in 1915. Yuki lived long enough to be embraced and cared for financially by her sister-in-law and nieces. She died in Kyoto, Japan, at 81, in 1963.

Ventfort Hall hosts a year-round exhibit dedicated to Morgan O-Yuki, which includes a photograph of the newlyweds with her family — her parents, four sisters and two brothers — prior to their departure from Japan.

Tables for Two at Ventfort Hall

Supper After the Ballet at Jacob's Pillow, 1930s

Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn

Nestled in the window alcove of Ventfort Hall's gift shop, it appears a fashionable couple has momentarily stepped away from their table, a delicate shawl draped over one of the chairs indicating their presence. The table is set with pale pink glassware, fingerbowls and fine china plates. Perhaps the pair is off greeting friends or supporters of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

Although Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis were separated both professionally and personally by the time Shawn purchased the farm in Becket that is now Jacob's Pillow, the pair remained connected through dance. St. Denis often performed at the festival. At this imagined dinner, the couple has reunited for a light supper after a performance at Jacob's Pillow.

Tables for Two at Ventfort Hall

Valentine's Day Dinner Party at Bellefontaine, 1905

Giraud Foster and Jean Van Nest Foster

A table laden with Royal Worcester china, custom-made gilded Venetian glasses and decanters and American and European silver awaits the guests of Giraud Foster and his wife, Jean Van Nest Foster, on the second floor of Ventfort Hall. The Fosters, who owned the stately and nearby Bellefontaine, now Canyon Ranch, were known for their social gatherings. Giraud Foster was a member of the Knickerbocker Club — considered to be the most exclusive club in the United States and one of the most prestigious and selective in the world, as well as president of the Mahkeenac Boat Club in Stockbridge and the Restigouche Salmon Fishing Club in Canada.

This imagined dinner party, with guests including author Edith Wharton and her husband, Teddy, features place settings and dishware used by the Fosters at Bellefontaine. The items are part of a greater collection, "The Treasures of Bellefontaine," on display in an adjacent room. The items are on loan, courtesy of Jane de Moret Foster, granddaughter of Giraud and Jean Foster.

Jennifer Huberdeau can be reached at jhuberdeau@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6229. On Twitter: @BE_DigitalJen