Saturday, April 24, 2010

Collection SS2010: Quintessence

I have originally dismissed this design as incoherent (or should I say “dissonant”?), and while I continue to stand by my impression, I found the theme intriguing enough to merit a critique.

The title of this scarf is “Quintessence”, a direct reference to the mystic concept of the fifth element that defines our universe (throughout the human history, various cultures identified the four elements that together made up the physical space in which we live as “air”, “earth”, “water” and “fire”. Given their critical and intimate roles in our lives, they were referred to as “essences”; hence, “quintessence” – from the Latin “quinta”, meaning “five”, and “essentia” – “essence”).

In the classic science fiction movie with the same name, the fifth element that bound us together was love; in the world depicted by Zoé Pauwels, it refers to a movement of fantasy and mystery, describing the Genesis through music played by angels (similar to a previous design, by the same artist, called "la danse du cosmos").

With many large-sized elements, the focal point of this score is the ornate treble clef (also known as the “Sol” clef, the name of “G” in the solfege, whose shape is probably derived from a cursive “S”), to the left, juxtaposed with the equally ornate bass cleff on the right (the word “solfege” ultimately derives from these two syllables, “sol” and “fa”). They set the tone for the overall theme and invite the spectator to tune in to the other elements of this creation.

As my gaze sought the rest of the carré, I found myself overseeing the white object depicted in the lower half of the centre, and up towards what appeared as celestial skies. On closer inspection, however, I recognized an hourglass whose passing of the sand from one receptacle and into the other, measuring the passing of time, is perhaps reflective of the rhythm of music and life. The celestial skies may also carry the admirer – as in a fantastic world – to our galaxy, as a reflection of the universe that music creates – its place, at the top, perhaps not random in suggesting that music is indeed uplifting.

In the lower corners of the scarf, music springs out of the necks of two violins, as if to indicate that the substance of the cases themselves evaporated into the ether (the fifth element) and what’s left is the music. The upper corners echo the lower ones with harps – the instruments of the gods – from which music continues to flow in an enchanting way. Each of these instruments – real or imaginary, as if in a fantasy – rest on stars that shine over all creations (remember, the light is the most powerful and recognizable symbol of the Divine). Perhaps the most impactful are the two celestial stars along the main “North – South” axis of the scarf, appearing to shine brighter than any other.

Potentially missed during the first “interpretations”, each of the two angels in the upper half of the scarf are resting on the Sun and the Moon, perhaps symbolic of the beginning and of the end. Finally, take note of the existence of the astrolabes, signifying the human poise to reach beyond the visible limits of our world, to discover and explain the universe.

The design is not necessarily harmonious, but is arguably maintaining an internal equilibrium, suggestive of a moment suspended in space when the motion of the stars may be observed and appreciated.

The final word is that Pauwels' style is distinct enough as this design reminded me of "La Musique des sphères", most recently released in 2007.


  1. This scarf is very peaceful, I like it. And I like the two colours you featured here. Well done !

  2. the way the violin heads are featured in each corner at the bottom of the scarf, it appears as if the body of the actual instrument is the universe of music it creates - almost as if the creator identifies with the creation. Interest! What's also unique to the Hermes scarves is that typically the themes are "grouped" in adjacent corners only, so no matter which way you fold the scarf, every pair of opposing corners will feature different themes. And that's fascinating !