I am something of a baigneur myself. While a shower is more revitalising – if I wake up in natural power mode a bath could pull me under – once I get in the bath it is quite hard for me to get out. I stay in for an hour or two, depending on duty: shower first, a la japonaise – the western mode of marinating in your own juices unclean and not how it should be done; similarly, shoes should be left at the entrance – you know it just makes sense……………….: soap that body down, rinse, then get into a hot bath with essential oil – bergamot, eucalyptus, sometimes vetiver – and start to dream. The pleasant ache of muscles dissolving in heat, then cold water added, at which point the sensation is as lovely as turning over a duvet cover in the night and feeling your physical self breathe with the pleasure of the slight cooling; an alleviation. After, more thermal heat.
Shampoo the hair and perhaps use more soap in the bath tub, later (heresy! You are not supposed to do that here, but I never said I had gone completely native); eventually – I am always fascinated by the arbitrariness of the moment we decide that the shower or bath has come to an end; what is the trigger? – If you are at an onsen, or hot spring, you will be boiled pink as a shrimp, cooled in the rotenburo steam of the outside air – or else plunged into the alternating cold pools that make you gasp out loud – full-scented with the mineralic of the volcanic waters, soothed with the beautiful linger of hinoki soap clinging to your skin, warmed through ; cleansed.
L’Officine Ufficielle’s collaboration with the Louvre, in which twelve classic paintings in Paris have been rendered in fragrance by a selection of renowned perfumers, is an effective collection of contemporary perfumes – particularly La Baigneuse, based on the coy, but voluptuous, Valpinçon bather by Ingres, painted in 1808.
I remember when I first met D, walking wide-eyed into his room in Cambridge and seeing a postcard of this picture on his curiously covered walls that looked like a museum – he was always far more well versed in the History Of Art than I was, being taken to galleries in London on day trips from Norwich by his parents as a child, his easel in his back garden, doing paintings of his own – and I have always relied on him ever since to fill me in on the details of paintings, and for that matter, the kings and queens of England – I was never that big on history, either. I was the one to fill him in on cinema, perfume and pop music; we met in the middle studying literature (he, incidentally, can’t stay in a bathtub for more than about fifteen minutes, though it is usually less than ten).
Le Wiki tells us that
the Valpinçon Bather (Fr: La Grande Baigneuse) is a painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), held in the Louvre since 1879. Painted while the artist was studying at the French Academy in Rome, it was originally titled Seated Woman but later became known after one of its nineteenth-century owners.
Although the painting was not met with favour by critics when first exhibited, almost fifty years later, when the artist’s reputation was well established, the Goncourt brothers wrote that “Rembrandt himself would have envied the amber color of this pale torso”, while the Louvre described it as “a masterpiece of harmonious lines and delicate light”.
Ingres had earlier painted female nudes, such as his Bathing Woman of 1807, yet this work is widely regarded as his first great treatment of the subject. As with the previous smaller work, the model is shown from behind, however The Valpinçon Bather lacks the earlier painting’s overt sexuality, instead depicting a calm and measured sensuality.
Remarking on Ingres’ ability to paint the human body in a unique manner, the art critic Robert Rosenblum wrote that “the ultimate effect of [The Valpinçon Bather] is of a magical suspension of time and movement—even of the laws of gravity … the figure seems to float weightlessly upon the enamel smoothness of the surface, exerting only the most delicate pressure, and the gravitational expectations of the heaviest earthbound forms are surprisingly controverted.”
All well and good. I do love the colours in this picture and the warm, powdered textures of the woman’s skin, even if the setting feels rather artificial (where is she?)
Her perfumed rendering?
This had to be an orris perfume, clearly, and who better to make it than the reine de l’iris herself, Daniela Andrier (creator of all the Prada iris perfumes as well as such cosy classics as Gucci Eau De Parfum). Here, though, rather than the chic sidewalk wearability of such perfumes she goes deeper and more weighted; private; bodily (‘the private crevasse of her shame‘……). La Baigneuse is a chalky, musk-laden iris, powdered, savoury, thick and underbellied with incense and patchouli, a base you feel rather than detect, freshened with a soap-like lemongrass and orange blossom top accord that triple mills the ingredients together in a binding and emotionally touching ‘just-bathed-all-day’ feeling that is simple; emotive; pleasing.
Saint Joseph Le Charpentier, another perfume in this line of twelve eau de parfums, alabaster fragranced boxes and ‘scented postcards’ from Le Buly is derived from
an oil painting by Georges de La Tour created circa 1642. The work depicts a young Jesus with Saint Joseph, his earthly father.
Joseph drills a piece of wood with an auger, which reflects the shape of the Cross and the geometry of the wood arrayed on the floor, set cross-wise to the seated child Christ – a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.John Rupert Martin writes that Jesus’ patience represents “filial obedience and the acceptance of his destiny as martyr”.
This painting, created around the year 1642 is one of several tenebrist paintings by La Tour. Others include The Education of the Virgin, the Penitent Magdalene, and The Dream of St. Joseph. In all these works, a single, strong light source is a central element, surrounded by cast shadows. In both Joseph the Carpenter and The Education of the Virgin, the young Christ is represented, hand raised, as if in benediction, with the candlelight shining through the flesh as an allegorical reference to Christ as the “Light of the World.”
The word that stands out for me here is tenebrist, or great contrasts between light and dark, and Buly’s perfumed namesake is a ‘deep note of cedar wood, infused with verbena, pink berries and vetiver’, though to me it smelled more like a tender, illuminating sandalwood. This is not a note that I would usually go for, but for those who like soft, deep, enveloping wood accords rather than the more prevalent sharp aggressions, I would definitely recommend this composition by Sidonie Lancesseur, creator of such rich elixirs as Mad et Len Nin Shar and Frapin L’Humaniste; here again, restraint leads to a softer, more serene orchestration; like La Baigneuse, a perfume for calm, and reflection.