In January 2021, Rinck introduces the Hébé collection. A feminine vision of the smoking room with Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, as its theme in a hedonistic response to these unprecedented times.
Even the gods are subject to changing fashions. Though she has somewhat faded from memory in recent times, the figure of Hebe – daughter of Zeus and cupbearer to the gods and goddesses before the arrival of Ganymede – was quite popular in the 18th century. She was, and remains, a symbol of eternal youth and vitality, pouring wine for the gods, and was Rameau’s heroine in his opera The Festivities of Hebe, which he wrote in 1739. The figure of this goddess, embodying the celebration of the young and their inspiring life force, was embraced by the arts and the aristocracy of that time, inspiring many portraits, including a 1773 painting of then-Dauphine Marie-Antoinette in the guise of Hebe. This fashion held through the end of that century and the dawn of the next: There is, for instance, a 1792 work by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Anna Pitt as Hebe; there are also several marble sculptures of Hebe by Antonio Canova.
View of the Montgobert Castle © Gaspard Hermach/ RINCK
Black and white photography of the Venus Victrix sculpture by Antonio Canova © Public Domain
Scuplture of Hebe by Antonio Canova © Sailko/Creative Commons
Not coincidentally, the château of one of Canova’s other subjects served as backdrop for our Hébé collection photo shoot. The Château de Montgobert, north of Paris, was the property of Pauline Bonaparte during her first marriage to a French general, before she became Princess Borghèse. We toured many sites as we planned these visuals and, from the moment we entered the chateau, we sensed that it was the perfect location. We could hardly dream of a better setting for our Hébé collection than these wood-paneled rooms opening onto vast, traditional grounds rife with the spirit of the Emperor’s sister, a woman of character and a seductress with the audacity to pose half-naked as Venus Victrix for the greatest sculptor of her time.
Our vision for this Hébé collection was indeed hedonistic. Unquestionably a tangible aspiration for simpler times, the creative work was begun by our teams in the midst of France’s first lockdown last March, as Europe discovered the scale of an epidemic that still seems interminable. A dream of celebration, games, swirling smoke, champagne. A tribute to youth, as well – young people who should spend their nights out dancing and yet find themselves confined indoors.
Deliberately choosing the aesthetic path of irreverent classicism, taking inspiration from tradition without clinging to a code, nimbly using its own history as a springboard, the design team at Rinck’s interior architecture workshop also sought to express through the Hébé collection a feminine vision of the smoking room, unshackling this lounge long reserved for gentlemen from its gender-specific repute. The ensemble, with the goddess Hebe as its theme, is a materialized siren song of immortality. As in the prologue of The Festivities of Hebe by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau, which portrays Hebe’s celebratory feast, the goddess is surrounded by her unfailing companions, the Three Graces, representing Mirth, Beauty, and Abundance. A feminine ode to festivity, goodwill, joy, life.
The Hébé collection includes a liquor cabinet, a sofa and an armchair, a games table and accompanying chairs, a rug, coffee tables, accent cushions, a floor lamp, an end table, an ashtray, and a cigar humidor or jewelry box – a palette of designs providing our workshop with ample opportunity to showcase its creative identity, one reflected in both the designs and the finishes, developed by our workshops for the collection. In a future post, we will have a chance to review the technical specifications of each piece in the collection. As with the Félicité collection introduced in January 2020, Hébé was produced from start to finish in our own workshops in France’s Drôme and Ardennes departments. This uncommon comprehensiveness has been a defining characteristic of Rinck for nearly 200 years as the company has blazed its trail as an ensemblier décorateur incorporating its own design and production staff.
For us, this ambitious collection is a superb way to start the year 2021, one that has particular significance for Rinck: In 1841, 180 years ago, Jean Rinck founded his first workshop in Alsace before his sons and grandsons settled in Paris in 1871 in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine due to the Franco-Prussian War and pursued their cabinetmaking and decoration activities there. One hundred and eighty years of creativity…and Rinck’s own “festivities” have only just begun!