Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Equestrian Charm

The Hermès Horse exhibition offers a peek at the century-old history and culture of the French brand through its first-ever client — the horse.

Written by Shikha Sharma |
November 10, 2015 12:15:03 am

Hermès Horse,  Hermès Horse exhibition, art exhibition, french Hermes, the horseA wooden rocking horse — with ghungroos strapped to its front legs and colourful Rajasthani adornments slung around its body — placed in the centre of room at the flagship Hermès store in Mumbai, holds a fond memory for Philippe Dumas. “I spent so much time on it. It shows how people have been associated with the creature’s mythical appeal since childhood,” says the artist, and fifth-generation member of Hermès, the luxury French brand. While the original rocking horse is in a museum in France, the replica was created by an artist from Normandy two years ago.

Dumas is the curator of “The Hermès Horse”, a travelling exhibition that opened in India last week. Comprising paintings from his grandfather Emile Hermes’ collection, with objects created in the ateliers of Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris — deemed the most fashionable street in the world — the exhibition depicts the century-old history of the brand through its first-ever client, the horse. Before Hermès became synonymous with scarves and the Birkin handbag, in the second half of the century, it was known for its saddles and harnesses.

These exquisite leather saddles don the window display at the store. “At the time in France, leather was stuck together. My grandfather introduced the saddle stitch, which used two needles. Today, everyone is copying that,” says Philippe. One of the paintings, of a horse carriage with the groom, became the inspiration for the brand’s logo. “It was not easy to own a horse carriage as it meant having at least two horses, someone to groom them and feed them, and stables,” he adds.
Emile Hermes was also a collector of objects from flea markets, many of which are on display through photographs, such as a display cabinet with items needed for travelling. “He would collect these because they were of good quality and he wanted to use them as examples for people working at Hermès, so they would create modern pieces inspired by their quality,” says Dumas. The exhibition also has some India-inspired displays, such as an ankle bracelet with bells.

The exhibition also includes a huge bag originally used for saddles and riding boots, which inspired the iconic Kelly Birkin, and a saddle custom-made for postmen, fitted with a glass they could sip water from.

“Emile was amazing because he adapted with changing times. When the death knell for horse accessories was sounded, he was able to use the craft and knowledge employed in saddles and harnesses to make other products of the same quality,” says Philippe.

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