Vintage "The Pony Express" Hermès Scarf by Kermit Oliver

This is an original "The Pony Express" Hermès silk scarf by the American artist Kermit Oliver. The scarf is shown in its white and burgundy colorway. The  English and French titles "The Pony Express" “Le Cheval Express” are both displayed at the top in red lettering on an orange banner. The main composition shows a Pony Express rider in a brown fringed outfit, atop his horse. A jackrabbit, pheasants, and a reptile crowd the trail in the foreground. In the background, the rugged frontier extends below the massive blue sky while a grouping of Native Americans stand atop a rock at left. 

Kermit Oliver (born 1943) is an American painter who studied and worked as both an artist and a postman in Texas, USA. Oliver primarily worked in painting, but is also celebrated for his work as a designer for Hermès. The professional relationship began in 1980, when Lawrence Marcus of Neiman Marcus introduced Oliver to the Hermès brand. Oliver produced 17 custom designs for Hermès over 32 years and is the only American artist to ever design for Hermès. 

The scarf features a rare and sought-after design featuring The Pony Express. The Pony Express was an American express mail service that used relays of horse-mounted riders. Short lived, the service ran from April 1860 to October 1861, between Missouri and California. It was operated by the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. During its 18 months of service, the Pony Express reduced the time for messages to travel between the east and west coasts to just about 10 days. It was especially important for linking the new state of California with the rest of the United States. The Pony Express became the most direct means of east–west communication, up until the first transcontinental telegraph was established in late October 1861. The Pony Express was romanticized and quickly became part of the lore of the American West. Because it relied on the skill and endurance of hardy riders and fast horses, the service was viewed as a symbol of the exceptional American effort needed to best the rugged frontier. 

The Pony Express design was first issued by Hermès in 1993. The rider and horse at center are rendered in a very detailed and realistic style, as was common for Oliver. Oliver was a part of the realism art movement, a movement aimed to focus on unidealized subjects and events that were previously rejected in art. By incorporating Native American iconography and western themes into his work, he aimed to celebrate and memorialize the culture of those normally overlooked by larger fashion houses and brands. 

Hermès scarves have adorned the heads of countless sophisticated celebrities, like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Queen Elizabeth II, and Grace Kelly, but the company didn’t get its start as a distinguished fashion house. Hermès was founded in 1837 as a harness and bridle shop in Paris. It took another hundred years before the company would design a scarf, using the same silk that lined its riding jackets.

The first printed silk, called “Jeu des Omnibus et Dames blanches,” debuted in 1937, and was created from a woodblock engraving by Robert Dumas, a member of the extended Hermès family. Over the next few years, Hermès’ silk canvases would feature such romantic and varied imagery as sailing ships, constellations, jungle animals, and, of course, horses.

The 36-inch square silk scarves were soon a mainstay of the luxury goods company, as different artists were commissioned to create their own designs with elaborate detailing and bright color combinations. An individual scarf typically incorporates 20 to 30 different hues, each printed from a unique silkscreen in a process that can take many hours to complete. More than 2,000 different designs have been produced since 1937, and vintage prints are sometimes re-released in new color palettes, in limited numbers.

CONDITION:

Very good condition overall. No significant wear or visible tears to silk. Artist's signature is visible in the bottom left corner in black lettering. The iconic Hermès mark is also printed in the bottom right corner: "Hermès Paris." 100% silk scarf with hand-rolled edges. 

Scarf is mounted and framed according to conservation standards in a custom frame. Framed Dimensions: 42 1/4" H x 42 1/4" W x 3" D.




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