I have the pleasure to introduce you a guest post written by Juraj Sotosek who organized last June a lecture / workshop about perfumes in Croatia. The text is a translation meant to show you how things are perceived in other places where the perfume culture has evolved in the recent years.
Perfumes as an art and through art
Perfume lecture was held in Velvet art gallery
Zagreb, Croatia, June 2012.
Curated by: Juraj Sotosek Rihtarec,
Faculty of political science, fragrance writer
„A perfume is a transmitted memory. It's not just a liquid but rather a living memory and moments of intimacy because through perfume you can experience the past with emotions in all its beauty. Emotions and art should be the ultimate criteria.“
Juraj Sotosek Rihtarec
The goal of this kind of lecture was to envolve the listeners into the world of art and culture by one interesting media, and that is fragrance. This kind of lecture/social event was the first of its kind in Croatia since on this area perfume culture doesn't exist. Project came to life and it made a huge succes in media and public because it's about civic culture after all and synthesis of general culture with the art of perfumes. Through lecture, I wanted to retract listeners into specific artistic direction and interpret olfactive paradigmatic works of art through those artistic directions. I was speaking to laymen and I wanted to keep it simple as much as I could, my approach to the concept was that I was presenting them perfumes, which they are using on daily basis, but to make them aware that they are using art on the most beautiful way they can imagine, through the sense of smell. I made it clear that it's not just a materia which make them smell nice. Movies, paintings, literature, those are all forms of existing and adapter art forms, the scent is developing into 8th art (Octavian Coifan, ISPICA, entered the term) which is unfamiliar to many and they are unaware that the scent is an art form. My lecture consisted of 4 artistic directions such as impressionism, expressionism, modern and avant-garde art and I have interpreted some perfumes through artistic premises of those directions and opposed them to the pop culture. In that way I have justified them as works of art. Each scent was circulating in the art gallery and every one was able to experience it except Fougère Royale.
Back before, literature, pictorial arts as music weren't forms of art, neither was the art of scent. Those were just thoughts put on paper, painted on canvas. It all began in ancient Egypt with their balms and scented baths for Pharaohs. Indian chemist by the name Tapputi was the first one who distilled flowers, but she can't be considered as an artist, only chemist. Incense and balms were firstly used for scenting the rooms and body, later, flowers were added and were smashed for different kind of festivities. Cleopatra was the most famous user of scented baths and oils. Christianity has interesting motive. 25th of December, we all know what's on that day, one of the most beautiful holidays, Christmas. We can interpret Jesus Christ, using Bible and writings in three ways. Three philosophers brought him 1) gold, gold is a symbol of earthly rule, kings always had a gold crown as a symbol of their rule. 2) incense – incense, the holy scent, the scent of the Gods, immortal divinity. 3) myrrh – the scent, a human as every other person.
14th century, Hungarian water was the first one with alcohol in itself. Next century that interest us is the 16th when Catherina de Medici ruled. She was a big benefactor of Florence and she became a queen when she married Henry ll. She brought two best friends with her to Paris, on the court. Her astrologer and Rene de Florentin, her perfumer. He had secret passageways connected with the court so nobody could steal the formula. Leather was very important because that was the way to scent, as wigs and leather gloves. The English court envied Elizabeth because Sir Walter Raleigh brought her scented leather cloak from far away.
Santa Maria Novella is important because they were the first pharmacists and later on,in 1709. in Koln the Italian barber Giovanni Maria Farina,made the first cologne ever . The exact formula is still secret but Napoleon Bonaparte used 60 bottles per day thinking it would recover him from syphilis.
How did art became artificial and Impressionism
Why is Coty Chypre considered as a beginning of modern perfumery in 1917.? That is only formula from the 18th century which was a little bit reinterpreted. Some similar perfumes existed in the house of Guerlain and Houbigant. We are remembering it because Coty'sEmpire was residing in New York. Chypre is Cyprus, it was the residence and place of birth of Aphrodite and a birthplace of Venus. Le Vetiver in Saxon culture is the same as Aphrodite in ancient Greece (Lubin Le Vetiver). Aphrodite/Le Vetiver is portrayed as a sordid, mistress of spring and she revived nature by her breath and gave death to winter. She was sleeping on earthy bed covered with moss, sour florals anointed with balms and jasmine oil and all bathed in gold resins. Why am I telling all of these? Moss, heavy oils, balms, resins. Chypre was the first modern brutal perfume and it's the representative of brutal aesthetics, but not modern by its composition because we are coming now to modern composition, not aesthetics.
Guerlain and Houbigant are probably the most significant perfume makers since they have made paradigmatic scents. They are using totally new compounds – vanillin and coumarin. Coty' became famous because he added methyl-ionone which smells on violet and dianthine – the scent of carnation which was added into ambreine base from vanilline and coumarin. It belongs to primitive aesthetics. His glory is based upon usage of 2 new ingredients. Mitsouko was inspired by Coty. Coty was also the first perfume for mass production with lower price and nicer scent, until then, perfumes were very elitistic.
For me, modern perfumery starts 30 years earlier than Coty's, in the time when Impressionism was a dominant artistic direction which followed Romanticism. Paul Parquet was a perfumer in Houbigant and Aime Guerlain was in Guerlain of course, They both were on the transition of epoch and we must take into consideration their context in which they lived. Both grew up during the Romanticism and became artists in the time of Impressionism. Romanticism is a reaction to the Industrial revolution which occurred and we can consider coumarin and vanillin as products of Industrial revolution because technology developed and enabled making synthetic materials. Coumarine, found in tonka beans, sweet smell with almond feeling and vanillin is extract from the vanila body. Aldehydes are functional group of vanilline which is very important! Romanticism also symbolizes free expression of artists emotion, his emotions are his rights and they are coming to reality through his imagination. Romantic originality is a term from history of art which defines that artist needs to make out something from nothing, from tabula rasa. We can connect that with making new synthetic products. Impressionism began in the19th century and its peak was in 1880. Radical impressionism was about breaking the rules, terms – exactly that, Parquet and Aime were doing! They were breaking the rules by creating a new form of art out of natural materia (synthetics),so by the definition Fougere Royale and Jicky are consequently, new forms of art unconsciously made under paradigms of Romanticism and Impressionism! Also, Impressionism uses light and transparent colours and this also correspondents to used notes! Jicky was much lighter than other historic, brutal and primitive perfumes, it had a form and more sophisticated smell! Houbigant (1882. the peak of Impressionism). When Marie Antoanette ran away from the revolutionars, she was disguised into Varennes, but she was recognized, not because of poor disguise, but because of scent! She wore Houbigant' perfume and only Royal family could afford that luxury. Napoleon's Josephine was representative of „Les Muscadins“. While her husband conquered half of Europe, she travelled with leather arks filled with bottles of musk. Jicky (1889.) was used by the street prostitutes in Paris because back then there wasn't electricity and in the dark, men would know which one was a prostitute because of the scent. Vanilla and jasmine are considered to be scents of the prostitutes, today those are great ingredients. Aime loved Jacqueline from London but her family didn't allow her to marry him and that's probably why is Jicky called Jicky. Other theory is that it was named after his uncle, Jacques. Sean Connery is very fond of it and paradigmatic thing is that it's the first ever unisex perfume in the world. 1889. – 3 Impressionistic works were made: Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge and Guerlain Jicky. It's first modern perfume in a full sense of its meaning. Jicky was rejected a little bit because of its unpure scent which was very unusual at the time and it wasn't advertised until 1912, because of the prostitutes. That is also the start of Guerlinade. It was made upon Houbigant. Houbigant and Jicky are paradigmatic because :they are modern in its full sense of meaning, that's the start of the emotional perfumery and art becomes artificial, artist is being divided from nature – Impressionistic premise is: the goal of Impressionism is to encurage and show emotions through by external stimuli (The scent). Impressionism is about the light and reminiscent of light colours, Jicky and Houbigant with their ingredients are representing the new olfactive lightness in a world of perfumes.
The French word expresio means expression and the goal of expressionism was to enable the author to let himself go, show emotions which were inside and fit it to the current view of the World. That was the time when the First World war ended and people were very miserable but in the air was the menace of the next one. Edvard Munchs Scream is probably the most precise state of mind at the time. Expressionism is the first clear and pure scream of a modern man. Social expressionism is directed toward humans, their social aspects and toward criticism of contemporary style of life. Chanel's Cuir de Russie is a criticism of the contemporary society! Why? Emancipation movement started a year or two before it was released, so that affected many women, especially Coco Gabrielle Chanel. Chanel was provocatrice par excellance. First brutal perfumes are also coming to life – Coty's Chypre, L'Origane and Tabac Blonde so with Cuir de Russie criticise the society. Tabac Blonde and Cuir de Russie are paradigmatic scents for this period. In that time, it wasn't allowed women to smoke a cigarette,it was considered to be immoral. Petit Garconnes or their American equivalent,Flapper girls also started to show themselves and their movement. By the defitiniton, those were cheeky women which wore strong make up, they were driving cars, drank and treated sex as a normal thing, and of course, they all smoke cigarettes. Ethymology comes from the 16th century when flapper was a name for a teen prostitute in England. In 1918. that word marked women who like pleasures, who are mature and who are trendsetters. After the war, there were more women than men so that's why they were doing what was itended for men. During the night, they were going out in jazz clubs where they danced very provocatively, smoked thin cigarettes, flerted and made special kind of parties – Petting parties – that were fore-play parties!
1919. Tabac Blonde –this year is very important because women stareted to smoke publicly and the name is invocation of a light tobacco.The Same year, cigarette industry in USA came to life and it started to be a big business. Perfume was made with the intention to fit into the whole spectre of scents in such clubs so it could go together with the scent of tobacco which was in the air, and actually its base would form a nice scent on a woman's skin so she wouldn't be recognised as a smoker. That was the first perfume made without florals and which was intended for a woman. (If we don't look how the perfumers muse chickened out when perfume started to symbolise lesbian culture). Luca Turin finds it dark and dykey in Chandler Burr's book The Emperor of Scent. Habanita has very similar conotations.
1924. Chanel Cuir de Russie. The same year Malboro started its brand and those were the cigarettes made for women. Its filter was coloured in red so the lipstick wouldn't leave a red trace. Red V on a box is a symbol of Venus. That was shocking perfume even for those who smoked publicly, that was a scandal. The most important thing among Flapper girls were their style. Coco Chanel created provocative clothes with men's figure intended for women. Les Ballets Russes – Russian ballets became attraction. After big post-war imigrations, far East became exotic because nothing is so exotic to our civilisation like machineguns, intensive dances, instinctive behavior and unproportion of imagination – they fascinate us because they discompose us! Chanel told Ernest Beauox, her perfumer, that she had a wish and wanted him toface women with unconventional fragrance, only little bit refined, with dry aldehydes and florals, jasmine, rose and ylang ylang – that was made in honour to No. 5 and its heart. The use of birch tar with styrax gave brutal animal note for the 20th century time and intelligent beauty to the constructive architecture. Why are they paradigmatic? By the legend, Russian cosac was galloping through Russian steps and to make his boots waterproof, he stopped and put on birch tar. Man on the picture, fire arms, gallop, soldier,perfume gave To women what was intended to men. Cuir de Russie by its showing breaks down social conventions and Expressionism is just about that, to criticise the socity and she, Coco did it perfectly with a perfume. Perfume with men's notes intended to women. Petit Garconnes, by using Tabac Blonde, were also breaking down conventions perfectly, they were seducers, they were emancipated, again, with a scent. Expressionism is connected with darker colours and dark mood such as the new ingredients in perfumes – raw and brutal and that's why they can be interpreted through artistic direction.
Modern art rejects everything and any idea which is linked to realism and it uses art forms which are made through application, incorporation and reformulation in the new form. It's a result of urban development – „make it new“. Arnold Schoeberg „String quartet No. 2 in F-minor“ – first ever composition without tonality. Igor Stravinsky worked for Sergei Diaghilver composed Ballets Russes „The Rite of Spring“ – first ballet ever with a human sacrifice. Something new but yet, known to the art. Coco Chanel grew up in Aubezine, in Cistercian monastery and that order payed attention to the numerology. 5 is the embodiment of a materia and its meaning. Gabrielle walked each day to the cathedral for a daily pray but the stones on a path consisted of tiles orederes in 5 circles. She liked cistus flower, the symbol of Cisterians, a rose of 5 petals. It was the fifth sample in order and it was introduced on 5 May 1921. First samples were given and not sold. We are talking about Chanel No. 5 of course. She wanted a perfume as a whole and none of the notes would jump out of the composition, a new perfume for Flapper girls. Bottle was made under inspiriation of place Vendome,a bottle for a whiskey which her lover Boy Capel liked or it could be interpreted as a cure for loneliness. Ernest Beaux used Arctic circle and the scent of a water in midnight for an inspiration of a scent. When it was launched, she sprayed the whole boutique in Rue Cambon. But, it wasn't the fist aldehydic scent, first one was Armingeat Reve d'Or, but it was not as important as No. 5. Aldehydes are organic components which are in various natural materials, commonly found in citruses. C=O, in each line,hydrogen can be added or alkyl and that's aldehyde. Formaldehydes are used in medicine for various reasons. The lower molecule weight, the stronger scent of rotten fruit. The higher molecule weight, the higher pleasent smell. „Fat“ aldehydes are used in No. 5 C10, C11, C12 and that's why it smells beautiful – they have citrusy and soapy notes, of which D&G Sicily is consisted as well. The only modern perfume which has the largest scale of such aldehydes in the World. C10 – citronal, C11 – coriander, C12 – violet and C14 is Mitsouko. Why is it paradigmatic? The genious idea was presented by Chandler Burr on his TED talk and it is his credit when he compared No. 5 with architecture, brilliant idea. The heart of No. 5 consists of classic French bouquet made of ylang-ylang, rose and jasmine and that's very traditional, but modern is that it's surrounded by „fat“ aldehydes, how he called them. That's the most pure idea of modern art! He compared Mies van der Rohe building with normal floors, doors, walls, but revolutionary was that a human entered through wall made of glass. The same thing can be performed on No. 5 because the heart consists of classic french bouquet and to enter that bouquet, you need to pass aldehyde wall. That is paradigmatical and what Burr said and what Ernest created, we can reinterpret as a form of modern art because Modernism wants to reinterpret old forms and make the new ones! Pure modernistic idea.
It is a part of Modern artistic direction. It represents works of art which are inovative, experimental. That is a movement that pushes boundaries which are accepted as a norm, especially in culture. Avant-garde is symbol of artists who are considering themselves as inovative, ahead of the most. We have the opportunity to experience perfumes in a new way. L'Or Bleu is a „green“ and organic perfume. So far, we have applied fragrances by spraying it on our skin. L'Or Bleu means Blue Gold and that is a project of French government to preserve drinkable water. Master Francis Kurkdjian made a spectacle, a drinkable perfume! We are,due to avant-garde definitions, experiencing art in the most beautiful way, we are directly consuming it! We have the new form, the new paradigm. Escentric Molecules and Geza Schoen are also very important. When I was talking to him, I realised that his one molecule replaces the whole traditional perfume structure! With one molecule, his perfume is capable to replace top note, heart and the base. We used perfumes in a passive way, we are experience it in active way. Jicky and Houbigant – they divided artist from nature, in Avant-garde perfumery, we are experiencing artificial art with no connection to nature at all. That's pure art. But, through artificial ingredients, with Secretions Magnifique, a perfume made of saliva, blood and sperm notes, art is coming back to the Ethos of the human, to the very its core. Artificial art for art. Synthetics are used to make ultimative organic and biological scents. Eau de Cologne and Aquae Admirabilis, the roots, were drinkable, people used them as a medicine, 150 years later, L'Or Bleu, back to the beginning of olfactive art. That is a communication with a work of art.
This is totality of ideas, perspective, phenomena which are dominant because of informal consensus within mainstream culture, especially Western culture. Mass media such as TV, newspapers, magazines, radio, affect pop culture and that number of ideas affect our daily life. Hannah Arendt: „Market is driven by media which will lead until diminishing of the culture and it will be replaced by dictates of entertainment.“ Later on, with promo and PR materials, perfumes are stopping to be art form. Gay perfumes, psychoanalysis, Freud, those are unscientific researches. Gaultier:*Men are art forms in the moment of their creation, but when those fragrances are linked with different connotations, they are becoming part of pop culture.“
L'art pour l'art – larpurlartism is proven by establishing the perfumes as an art form and its full meaning we can find in avant-garde artistic directions. My point is that there is no difference among Picasso, Mozart and a perfumer. Picasso made an art form by putting colour on canvas, Mozart played with notes and perfumer is making a form with molecules. At the point of creation, all of three have creative idea and they are expressing it by different materials.
„Perfume is fluid biography. Some are meant to conquer the world in a moment when a perfumes open the eyes toward his work of art. For a perfumer there is no presence, that's a convention, there is only history which he is discovering and future that he is making.“ With this sentence, it's summarized the core of what perfume should represent. Art should be the ultimate criteria!
Juraj Sotosek Rihtarec,
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art