Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musings On Madison Ave.

No this post is not what you think it is about...

It is another photo exploration this time of Kermit Oliver's design Madison Ave. released in limited release in 2000 to celebrate the opening of the Madison Ave. Hermes. There were much whispersings and groans throughout the world of people who know what an Hermes scarf is this past week due to the unforeseen coincidence that Hermes held their New York Sample Sale and it opened the very day that Washington began serious discussions on the "economic crisis". Collectors flock in droves to this sale, and nothing save an atomic bomb could probably stop them. But there are those who scrutinized, shook their heads and wagged their fingers in disbelief. A great quote from one collector is that they "...just don't get it..."

What's not to get is that it is about art and artistry. Stop for a moment and try to figure out a time or place where mankind stopped it's appreciation for art, or the use of art to explain his view of his world to another. I can't think of of one I have tried. There is much that has taken place in history itself that the only account we have of the event is due to the art of another.

Hermes is art.

One wonderful example is the Madison Ave. scarf. Kermit Oliver takes us on a journey that includes the fact that our existence here and now even on Madison Ave. is indelibly linked to those who were here before, be it the flora and fauna or our indigenous peoples. The native maiden sleeps and as she sleeps she dreams...

Madison Ave. Dreams

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Study Of Napoleon - A Scarf Meditation

One of the most classic and timeless pieces ever done by the design house of Hermes is Napoleon. First issued in 1963, it was later re-issued in the years 1985, 1995, and 2002. The design was done by Phillipe Ledoux one of the most prolific designers of Hermes scarves in their history. No collection would be complete without a Ledoux design, as he is perhaps the most beloved of all designers by Hermes. I am not speaking regarding collectors, I am speaking regarding representatives of Hermes, they speak regarding the works of Ledoux with a reverence that they seem to rarely give others. Monsieur Ledoux has long since past, but his designs will live on forever.

Many collectors I know prefer their Napoleon scarves in the colorway that best represents France, such as the colors of the flag. I however, prefer the soft elegance suggested in soft pink border, perhaps giving the suggestion of the memory of Josephine.

The original Napoleon was produced with a bee jacquard as seen here. Hermes no longer produces Jacquards as they proved to be very expensive to produce.

Napoleon's Bees

William Henry Ireland in 1822 wrote:

"It was custom in France during its early and barbarous ages, that whenever a monarch died his horse and page were killed and buried with their master, that they might be in ready attendance upon him in the next world. In the year 1653, the tomb of Childeric, the father of Clovis was discovered and within it were found the skeleton of a man that of a horse and part of he skeleton of a youth, concluded to be the remains of Childeric and his companions. On furhter search in the tomb were found a purse, containing above a hundred pieces of gold and two hundred pieces of silver, bearing the heads of different emperors of France; a crystal ball or orb, a pike, a battleaxe, the handle, mounting and blade of a sword; gold tablets and style; the bit and part of the harness of a horse; fragments of dress or robe; and more than three hundred little bees of the purest gold, their wings being inlaid with red stone like carnelian. The appropriation of this emblem was hence suggested to Napoleon. A gold signet ring was taken from the finger of the larger skeleton; upon it appeared and engraved head, having long hair flowing over the shoulders, and it the words, "Childerici Regis"..."

"The State Council followed Cambacérès and Lacuée, who proposed the bees, as "a republic with a chief", with a sting but producing honey, which was the emblem of work for Ségur. The team, directed by Vivant Denon, that designed the imperial arms, proposed a semy of bees in "Merovingian style" on the imperial purple coat. The original design was deemed "too archaic". Later, a bee with well-detached wings was selected, and appeared on the Emperor and Emperess' clothes, as well as on the hanging in the Notre-Dame cathedral during the coronation.The bee was part of the French symbolic from 1804 to 1814 (First Empire), during the Cent-Jours (20/03-22/06/1815), and finally under Napoleon III's Second Empire (1852-1870)."
Source: Encyclopaedia Universalis

Below is a picture of the Merovingian Bees from the Gallica web site

I am fascinated by the pure luxury of the Hermes Napoleon Scarf, it seems to carry with its name a since of the decorum of the era it represents. I thought it would be interesting to do a photographic study of the scarf, a kind of visual meditation of it. Letting my camera be my eyes as it swirled the twill of bees. Below is the result of that meditation. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Musings On A Tale Of Three Vapeurs...

Ok a trivia question, name two scarves that Hermes re-issued and changed the scarf slightly in design with the re-issue?

Answer: "Paris Modistel" and "Merveilles De La Vapeur"

In 1956 Hermes released the original "Paris Modistel" by Hugo Grygkar, then when it was re-issued in 2006 the printed name on the scarf changed to "Paris Modiste".

In 1958 Hermes released the original "Merveilles De La Vapeur" by Phillipe Ledoux, the design was re-issued in 1986. In the re-issue they changed the design by replacing one of he highlighted steam vehicles in the center medallions with a completely different vehicle.

In the original issue the lower left medallion has a depiction of a steam vehicle by Luigi Pagani, the newer re-issue has a locomotive by Marc Seguin. I have never been able to track down why the decision to change the design. It does indeed make the scarf a different piece. There have been many times that collectors are kept guessing on why Hermes has done what it has done, this is just one incident.

The original issue of the design was also colored far differently. I have seen only one other original 1958 piece, and it was similar to mine in that it did not have a lot of fanciful coloration, but instead was like a fine old sepia style photo but was done in golds, grays , and black. Where mine is cream, rose, burgundy, and black.
I am attracted to the design of this scarf due to it's loose connections to some pieces by Jules Verne a favorite author of mine. Like "Tour du Monde en 80 Jours" also by Ledoux. Many who know the design of this scarf might not realize that it also has a Verne connection loosely to two works, and personal notes by Verne, "Backwards to Britain" in which Verne mentions the foundry near his boyhood home where certain steam engines were built, and "Paris in the 20th Century" in which Verne discusses the rail line between Paris and St. Germain. Verne also rode Stephonson's "Great Eastern" to visit the United States, and witnessed the building of the "Great Eastern" which he documented in his notes under "Journey to England and Scotland"All of this has led me to wonder if perhaps Phillipe Ledoux may have also been a real fan of the Jules Verne classics. If he was not at least I can imagine that he was.