If XVIIth and XVIIIth century saw the emergence of the Baroque - they way it was expressed in paintings, sculpture and architecture is not the same and also not the same are the various interpretations given in different countries - magnificence in Catholic Rome with its dramatic compositions featuring perspective effects, complex ellipse spaces and intricate decoration in german-austrian territories, opulence in Russia and harmony and minimum effects in France. We often consider Versailles as the epitome of grandeur but compared to its other "replicas" in Europe there is something more about French. I choose Jacques Ange Gabriel, architect from the 18th century as the perfect example of what French classicism could be after Louis XIV. Harmony, human scale, mathematical precision of proportion but not the coldness of neoclassicism, the rejection of too much and an ideal of beauty that is not rhetoric.
Can we design a perfume style to express those ideas?
We could imagine both a structure and a selection of elements. While the structure shows the same level of complexity as the baroque type, it lacks the "special effects", the virtuosity, the anecdote. The fragrance is within the trends of a certain period yet above them. There is nothing too much inside - to create a contrast, an effect or a strong impression. Because classical beauty is something absolute and universal it must not shock. Vent Vert is the opposite of this style (though seen already in Coeur Joie). Unlike the impressionistic fragrances (the multiple nuances of the same note as in Daltroff perfumes) it is not a discourse on shade and nuance but one on "general form". A "classic" fragrance would contain almost the entire specter of fragrance notes, none would dominate and all will blend with no "big noise" from top to end. If Femme would be the baroque period of Edmond Roudnitska with a complex composition where all possible notes can be perceived in the same time, Diorama is his "classic" perfume. In Diorama we find similar notes and ideas with Femme, but here both aesthetic and final effect are different. Femme is a "shape of multiple shapes" and Diorama is a unique shape. A perfumer that expressed at its best the classical ideal of beauty is Francis Fabron, master of aldehydes. The fragrances he created show a personal vision and a way of composing fragrances. With not very long formulas he achieved complexity and subtlety.
Jacques Polge is to perfumery what Jacques Ange Gabriel is to French architecture - the purest form of classic harmony where notes are subject to an ideal beauty and a certain idea of taste and not to fashion. The fragrances he created are not outside the new and "fashionable" ingredients or zeitgeist but every time he proved to be a little above. No excess, no baroque fragrances (though marketing put Coco in this style), no tension, no overdoses of ingredients. His fragrances show both the mathematical precision of classicism and the perfection of modern shape in design. Like the French architect, he doesn't speak of invention and extreme originality but of an abstract (yet familiar) idea of beauty expressed through perfect interpretation. Coco Mademoiselle is the superior version of the fruity floral chypre fragrance of the time. But it has class and an impeccable interpretation. Allure was not a revolution in perfumery but it showed almost all type of notes in a wonderful composition. Allure represented some sort of conclusion of all families, trends and possible ideas in the previous century. A complex composition where the entire perfume organ is present. In his perfumes you do not smell top, middle and bottom - there is no artificial separation but something very smooth and well polished. No5 Eau première is the most recent example of an impeccable vision and construction because French classicism is not about shock, exotism and curiosity.
photo: Le pavillon français (Trianon) par Michael Kenna.
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art