63 grams is the weight of an Hermès scarf

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Natsuno Hidaka
First issued: 2002
Reissues: 2007 for Opera Carolina (in two color ways, see below)
Catalogued 3B

(Original 1926 poster)

This post is dedicated to Ricardo Depine, a dear friend who can't help crying every time he sees a Puccini's opera.

As an opera enthusiast, I'm very happy to present the profile of this beautiful scarf inspired in the homonymous work by Giacomo Puccini. Turandot was his posthumous opera, a master work in three acts set to a libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni whose first representation took place at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on April 25, 1926, one year and five months after Puccini's death.

Let me present a very brief plot of this beautiful love story, unlike most of the operas, Turandot has a happy although controversial ending.

In Peking's Imperial Palace, the fatally beautiful Princess Turandot receives unlucky suitors from far and wide, who must answer three riddles to win her hand—or die. Calaf, son of the exiled King Timur of Tartary, is struck with Turandot's beauty, and ignoring protests from his father and Liù, the servant girl who loves him, he matches wits with the princess. Although he guesses the three riddles, Calaf offers his life to Turandot if she can discover his secret name. Searching the city in vain, the princess finally tortures faithful Liù, driving her to suicide. Faced with Liù's sacrifice and Calaf's stern devotion, Turandot crumbles, and weeping in Calaf's arms, she declares that his secret name is Love.

Why is Turandot's ending controversial? Let's see: Puccini died in 1924 before completing Turandot, and the score was finished by his student Franco Alfano in 1926. Even though Puccini had left notes for the final scenes, Alfano did his own thing — and his ending has been performed ever since. But the story is not over yet: Luciano Berio, one of Italy's leading composers, came up with his own, very different ending. Berio's version was sanctioned by the Puccini estate, and after trial runs in the Canary Islands, Amsterdam and Los Angeles, it was performed in 2002 at the Salzburg Festival... it's amazing, isn't it?

The scarf itself presents the main characters of the opera on the central medallion under the scarf title, they are Turandot and Calaf, sitting together and playing their singular Russian roulette-type game of enigmas, the figures have the classic hieratical features of human representation in Chinese art as well as formal, royal attires which symbolize their dignity. The symbols found on Chinese robes indicate to the viewer the status of the individual who would have worn the garment. Symbolism denotes social standing, moral messages, and also tells historical and legendary stories.

Turandot has a fairytale-style atmosphere in all its sets and therefore the staging is absolutely superb. The themes brilliantly composed by Puccini, evoke an exotic oriental sound with ceremonial melodies throughout the opera. The atmosphere is grim and terrible and the stage is decorated with imperial pomp.  The central medallion of the scarf represents the Gong, which has a decisive role during the opera announcing the doom of men.

Natsuno Hidaka was able to capture the essence of oriental art and imperial pomp in this scarf. The whole surface is covered in an intricate work of geometric patterns splashed with other vegetal and zoomorphic motives.

The dragon symbolizes the adaptability of the emperor and his willingness to change laws according to the needs of his people. This could be due to the link the dragon has with the changing of the seasons. The dragon is a very important symbol associated with the spring and symbolizes transformation and productive force. In the spring the dragon ascends to the skies, and in autumn, it buries itself in the watery depths. It covers itself with mud in the autumnal equinox, and emerges in the spring, thus announcing by its awakening the return of nature's energies. The Chinese dragon was on every court robe and the dragon itself symbolized imperial power. 

There are many other symbols represented on this master piece of chinoiserie, the Crane (symbol of longevity), the Lion (symbol of success), the Tortoise (symbol of perseverance)  and Butterflies (symbol of joy and summer)

Our dear blog friend Mitchin, posted some new info about the symbols displayed on the scarf:

"I was just wondering about the animals you've described, that are located in the corners of the scarf. I thought that they were representing the 4 gods/seasons/elements in Chinese culture: The Phoenix, which is associated with summer, fire element and the South. The Tiger, associated with autumn, air element and the West. The Dragon, associated with spring, water element and the East and the Tortoise, associated with winter, earth element and the North".

(Thank you, Mitchin for the input.)

In Turandot there is evil, sadism, revenge, hatred... But there is also hope, love, nobility and sacrifice. The entire work symbolizes the victory of love over hatred, the victory of goodness over extreme evilIt embodies the hope over the bitter end.
Turandot tells us that even in a fable, which occurred in a remote time, the hatred has never triumphed over love.
And perhaps the last great mystery of Turandot is just how it manages to seduce almost a century after its premiere, forever in a captivating fairy tale that we can hardly leave without seeing the final conclusion

Opera Carolina couldn't have chosen a better scarf to celebrate their anniversary in 2007 and we, scarf lovers, are forever grateful they decided to do so. This is the other color way Hermès made for the reissue:

And a collage to show different color ways of this marvelous scarf:

Booklet from the 2002 edition:

The most famous aria of Turandot is unquestionably "Nessun Dorma" (Third Act). It has been performed by all the important singers since 1926. Although Luciano Pavarotti is by far the most popular performer of this aria, I wanted to finish this post with the performance of another singer, the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling (1911-1960) whose live representation in 1944 was completed in such slow tempo that when Pavarotti was asked about it, he said: "Oh no, please! I'm only human!" He was right, Björling's performance takes 4 minutes , one minute longer than any other average performance ever made... just impossible! 

Other designs by this Natsuno Hidaka:

Lumieres de Paris 2006
L'Heure du Printemps 2006
Ballade de Heian 2009
Esprit Ainou 2011

According with LuxuryScarves, there are other designs by Hidaka whose dates are unfortunately unknown: