© Gotz Göppert
Maison Hennessy is delighted to welcome “L’Ombre des Heures, Le Retable du Temps”, a work commissioned from artist Jeremy Demester specifically for the Atelier de Tonnellerie, Hennessy’s barrel-making workshop at its historic home in Cognac, in the Charente region.
The Hennessy Atelier de Tonnellerie, its barrel-making workshop, represents the passing on of ancestral savoir-faire. Emblematic of Hennessy’s history and values, it embodies the cognac maker’s incomparable know-how and the hand-crafted intelligence behind making and conserving barrels of exceptional sizes in which eaux-de-vie are aged. For more than two centuries, the Maison’s coopers have passed on a love of skilled handiwork, knowledge of materials and skillful use of tools to craft barrels entirely by hand.
Reconnecting with the original barrel-making workshops, the new Atelier marks a return to the banks of the Charente river in the heart of Cognac, carrying on the sharing and perfection of remarkable savoir-faire centered on excellence. To celebrate this ethos, Hennessy commissioned a monumental work by artist Jeremy Demester. Entitled “L’Ombre des Heures, le Retable du Temps” (The Shadow of the Hours, The Altarpiece of Time), the piece is above all the fruit of an encounter between artist and artisans around all that unites them – handmade craftsmanship, the mystery of materials and the changes imparted by time. Because they are the guardians responsible for passing on unique skills and intimate knowledge of materials, artisans nurture a deep and personal relationship with time.
The “Altarpiece” is an ideal pictorial embodiment of the cyclical movement of time. The enclosed piece reflects the transformations of light and harbors a mystery. The bronze frame –cast using the centuries-old lost wax method – reveals the infinite metamorphoses of wood that coopers know so well. Lauded for the vitality of his brushwork, Jeremy Demester has created a heady sensorial whirlwind within the “Altarpiece”. The complex harmony of colors seems to resonate with the rich substance as it ages in the barrels, infused with the aromas of wood and subtle atmospheric variations.
A silent witness to the activity of the workshop, the piece is both an inspiration and a companion for the artisans, bearing witness to the extended timeframes over which they pass on their craft. Coopers work the wood from tree to barrel in symbiosis with the elements – air, water and fire – in order to coax out exceptionally subtle savors. And like the artist, they cultivate precise gestures and sensorial immersion to create unique objects that will last through the ages.
For more than 250 years, Hennessy has been renowned the world over thanks to its exceptional savoir-faire. The barrel-making workshop and its “Altarpiece” reflect this expertise, and at the same time become a place for exchanges. The workshop will soon welcome visitors, enabling Hennessy to celebrate the passion of its artisans and their noble métier, along with the importance of the Maison’s contribution to the immaterial heritage of the region. The training of future master coopers merits a place matched to inspiration and emotion, and the installation of a striking work of art contributes to this approach. The “Altarpiece” imparts a historic dimension to the Atelier de Tonnellerie, celebrating its unique aura while creating a space for dialogue and sharing.
Aligned with the visionary spirit of its founder, Hennessy is synonymous with longevity thanks to a unique approach to passing on its savoir-faire across generations at every stage in the process of crafting exceptional cognacs. The presence of Jeremy Demester’s stunning work for the new Atelier de Tonnellerie reflects this ongoing endeavor, encouraging new generations of artisans in their meticulous quest for superb craft and excellence.
Jeremy Demester is a French-Gypsy painter. His practice is guided by a desire to explore the essence of travel in both mind and body, spanning a variety of media, from painting to bronze. He has been recognized with numerous awards, including accolades from the jury of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the Prix des Amis des Beaux-Arts 2015 and the Prix Aurige Finance (2014 winner).
© Gotz Göppert