Wednesday, December 16, 2009

La Réale

I have been struggling with this post for several days now, for I wanted to pay tribute to another Hermes design classic yet the feelings that this design triggers are, for me, mixed: the glory of this luxurious and imposing galley, world-famous and recognized for its symbols, is shadowed by the image of the many souls condemned to hard labour working the oars under the deck. The contemporary depiction of that social stratification was beautifully captured in James Cameron's "Titanic", albeit in a less intense if somewhat romanticized manner.

"La Reale" ("the Regal one") was the venerated galley in the service of King Louis IV of France. In the French nomenclature of galleys, a "regular" galley had 26 pairs of oars, with 6 oarsmen per bank. "La Reale" was considered an "extraordinary" galley as it had 32 pairs of oars with the same number of oarsmen per bank (6). The design depicts the stern (back) of the galley, in all its splendour, thanks in part to the impressive size and in part to the opulent decorations, symbolic of the opulence at the court of the "Sun King". Of interest is that the design itself is not depicting the oars.

The galley is illustrated within what appears to be a canopy, depicting the French royal insignia - the "fleurs de lys" ("lily flowers"). The tassels from each of the four corners give the tie a more traditional "feel" when the scarf is knotted. Similarly, the colour combination of this scarf is more traditional - particularly the "royal" blue and the gold accents, although more recent reissues of this scarf inspire a more contemporary "feel" thanks to a limited variation of colour combination (a predominant soft green, for instance, makes the scarf feel younger and contemporary). One such design combination had a burgundy border, a white inner border and a overall burgundy illustration, which again made the scarf very chic without coming across as too traditional or "antiquated".

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