Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options

Search Press Release Archive

Press Release - January 24, 2017

Artist turns Hermes luxury handbags into his personal canvas

Unique example available at Heritage Auctions' Winter Luxury Accessory Auction Feb. 2-3

Hermes customized artwork
DALLAS (January 20, 2017) — In the upcoming Heritage Auctions' Winter Luxury Accessory Auction Feb. 2-3 two of the items offered are a hand-painted vintage Hermes handbag by New York based artist Max Brownawell listed as Hermes Customized 28cm Black Calf Box Leather & Toile Retourne Kelly Bag with Gold Hardware. K Circle, 1981; Artwork 2016 by Max Brownawell and Hermes Customized Ebene Negonda Leather & Toile Garden Party MM Bag with Palladium Hardware.

“I was first inspired by antique Tibetan carpets featuring tiger motifs. Many of my works are inspired by these extremely creative and varied depictions of tiger skins from late 19th century Tibet, where these skins were believed to protect those who wore them during meditation. By re-working these motifs into designs that fit onto the canvas of the bags, my tigers are given back to their original purpose; protection. They're protecting the owner when she's carrying the bag, and of course protecting the bag itself," explained Brownawell, Heritage Auctions Senior Specialist, Luxury Accessories.

As a six-year old Brownawell began training in classical oil painting and his tutelage continued daily until as a sixteen year-old he enrolled in a boarding school that did not teach that discipline. The young artist did not take this as a setback but rather an opportunity to explore and experiment with other mediums. Over the following years he discovered his love of acrylic and the fast drying nature of the paint changed his creative output enormously. No longer was he constrained to working tediously on detailed oils for months on end, now Brownawell could generate paintings almost daily. Favorite subjects to paint for the artist were animals which he painted on enormous 4' x 5' boards. He would stretch and simplify their shapes to fit the rectangular space, giving his creatures a stylistic hint of early American painting warped through the lens of outsider art.

In early 2016 Brownawell began experimenting with paining on Hermes handbags. The Toile canvas that Hermes used was a perfect canvas and the high quality craftsmanship of Hermes bags was ideal for his art. Brownawell has finished eight handbags and have three more in the works.

“The bags I paint on are often vintage bags that have gone through an entire life already on the arm of a stylish woman. Through my painting I'm able to give them a second life as a completely new bag, ready for an exciting new life on the arm of an exciting new woman. I use acrylic paints which will hold up if someone gets caught with their bag in the rain. Each of my works is completely unique, and the process I use to create my animals is very time consuming, requiring many, many layers of paint to build up the right surface and texture," added Brownawell.

Heritage Auctions is the largest fine art and collectibles auction house founded in the United States, and the world's largest collectibles auctioneer. Heritage maintains offices in New York, Dallas, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Chicago, Palm Beach, Paris, Geneva, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.

Hi-Res images available:
Elon Werner, Director of Communications

Heritage membership

Join Now - It's Free

  1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
  2. Bid online
  3. Free Collector newsletter
  4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
  5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
Consign now
  • Cash Advances
  • More Bidders
  • Trusted Experts
  • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976 receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: