As with so many dining traditions, the story of napkin-folding begins in Renaissance Italy. There noble and merchant families in the 16th century began to incorporate elaborately folded pieces of cloth as centerpieces and into individual place settings. Napkin displays became symbols of the wealth and status.
At the French court in Versailles during the Baroque era, napkin-folding became even more elaborate. The influence of the court further popularized napkin-folding. The court's extravagance, though, ended up causing napkin-folding to be associated with aristocratic excess. After the French Revolution, napkin-folding went out of fashion.
With the growth of class divisions in the late 19th century, napkin-folding again came into fashion in aristocratic and bourgeois households. The new approach to napkin-folding was more restrained than it had been in the Renaissance and Baroque eras. 19th century napkin-folding seems to have been more a sign of order and sophistication than of conspicuous extravagance.
Napkin-folding was influenced by the Japanese art of origami. In this way, napkin-folding reflects the fusion of colonial culture and the foreign cultures encountered through colonialism.
19th century colonial napkin-folding has been artfully revived and preserved by top-end Sri Lankan hotels and restaurants.
Interestingly, towel-folding also has an international provenance. Drawing inspiration from napkin-folding traditions, stewards on cruise ships began to fold towels in captivating and whimsical ways. Those stewards later found jobs in hotels and brought with them the art of towel-folding that they had developed at sea.
Several of the staff members are well versed in the art of towel-folding and napkin-folding. We encourage our guests to develop their artistic talents and to learn some techniques from them. If that is of interest, simply speak with the front desk clerks or manager and they will arrange for someone to take 15-30 minutes to teach you some basics.