D is often to be found scouring about in old curiosity shops, fleamarkets, and the recycle antiques, and came to the hospital via Kamakura the other day with a paper bag full of scented eclectica.
There is nothing like some unexpected perfumes to put a spring in a boy’s step ( so to speak ), because even if I am still not quite ready for richness in perfume nor in food, I LOVE JUST having, and owning, them anyway.
Duncan liked Fragonard’s Reve Indien straight away when he smelled it at Strawberry Fields – the best boutique for cheap vintage perfumes in our vicinity – as did I ( for another time though – my belly still can’t quite stomach such warm richesse right now, even if I could immediately imagine it going straight on a cashmere scarf come December or January). This is one of those rich vanilla ambers that I am practically guaranteed to like and one that he likes on me as well – one that smells seamless, dense, smooth, and Shalimar-like. Cuddly. Sensual. Warm. I’m very much looking forward to its debut elsewhere – some extravagant other time.
Gianfranco Ferre Ferre would also be quite scandalous and out of place in a sterile hospital context. This is one of those mad, lipsticked Italianas I remember from the nineties ; a glammed-up, Monica Bellucci bombshell whose bottle was even shaped like a grenade and whose smell: sweet, heady, aldehydic, heavily floraled, glintily fruited, mightily musked and vanilla’d and sandalwooded, is about as overtly sexed as a glamorous sex siren can be. Proclamatory, gorgeous, you almost fear her.
The grave, almost archaically beautiful Je Reviens parfum, in that perfect, lunar blue bottle, couldn’t possibly be more different. I don’t have anything to say about this singularly saturnine creation that isn’t already in my review – has there ever been a more fascinating and melancholy perfume created ? – but in the drab confines of the hospital, such an object of beauty, and olfactory perfection ( I smelled it from the bottle and it was pristine), has real worth. Everything about Je Reviens to me is precious.
Of the four treasures pictured ( which came to a grand total of ¥2000, twenty dollars), the perfume I was most excited to receive of the cache, when I pulled it excitedly out of the bag, was probably the vintage (60’s?) bottle of the legendary Muguet De Bois, which I had read about many times before but never actually smelled. I was thrilled.
This Coty creation from 1916 was apparently loved by Roudnitska and was part of the inspiration that led to his creation of the lily of the valley to end all lily of the valleys, the great and indefatigable Diorissimo from 1956. Still, despite some obvious similarities in the source material – both being highly evocative of the actual flowers – the two perfumes are undeniably at opposite sides of the spectrum of simplicity and embellishment.
I have never disputed Diorissimo’s beauty. This perfume in fact once elicited one of the few hallucinatorily beautiful altered mind states I have had from perfume in this lifetime, when I smelled it unexpectedly on a Japanese girl in England one day and just sat near to her; hypnotized, at peace, synaesthetically dream-induced and marvelling not only at the olfactory complexity of the work of art she was wearing and all it conferred on what was already a mysterious aura, but also all the conflicting and perturbing impressions the scent bestowed; at once primordially innocent and pure : yet silently and somehow devilishly aware of her subtly carnal aroma simultaneously : that murmuring , softly putrescent, but carnal, underbelly.
She is extravagantly beautiful, Diorissimo. Ravished with a pure white genial plenitude. But at the same time there is also something strangely queasy, almost too zealous about the perfume to me most of the times I experience it; so trembling and frilly and pink and boronia jasmined….for me, despite its obvious magnificence, there is a barely suppressed hysteria at the heart of the perfume that ultimately turns up to eleven, what should have been set at nine.
Muguet Des Bois, in this vintage at least, is different. It is not the belles of the balls of May festooned in muguet and bonny curls, nor couture wearing Parisian madams self-consciously evincing spring, but rather quiet lily of the valley flowers themselves – just unfurled and nestling – breathing contentedly in the cool, green air of mayland woodland groves. This BREATHES.
I like it better. Muguet Des Bois is a perfectly balanced soliflore with tints of green foliage and a clear, clean soap-like finish that pleases (soapy’ as a descriptor is almost always seen as a pejorative by most perfumists, but for me, soap has never been a dirty word); persuasive; vernal; cool, and fresh.
Francois Coty obviously knew exactly what he was doing when he made this deceptively simple homage to these flowers. After washing my hands, here in my bed, spraying on the Muguet Des Bois takes me away from this room in my mind’s eye for a moment and I see nature; trees, grasses, and tiny white bells hiding in green undergrowth, subconsciously displaying their scent.