There is no real of art more obsessed with love, passion and desire than perfume. Nearly all perfumes are a promise of a love potion; an elixir so irresistible that it will capture your heart's desires, and lure in new ones... And some were inspired by the most tragic love stories. Others, even more so inspiring, by the perfumer's real life stories, agony and muses.
Let's begin with the house of Guerlain. More than any other perfume house I know, their perfumes bottle love stories and are usually inspired by women and created first and foremost to be worn on a woman's skin.
Jicky (1889) In 1864, Aimé Guerlain had to interrupt his studies in England and return to the family's business due to the illness of his father, Pierre-François. Him and his brother, Gabriel, now had to take charge of all aspects of the company - and his role was as perfumers, while his brother's was to take care of the business and marketing side of things. Years later he created this masterpiece, and although another story says this was his nickname for his nephew, Jaqcues - another story says this was the name of the lover he left behind in England.
Mitsouko (1919) is inspired by the heroine of Le Bataille (The Battle) - a novel about a Japanese girl who was abandoned by an American naval officer who married her, got her pregnant and never returned to her. She tried to perform harakiri but was found by one of her maids, who saved her life. The perfume is redolent of Asian woods, spices and delicate aldehydic peach note.
Nuit de Noël (1922) was created by Ernest Daltroff with his muse, lover and business partner
Félicie Vanpouille. She was a dressmaker by profession, and became Caron's legendary package and bottle designer. Her creations really completed the perfume and together the couple created masterpieces in both visual and olfactory aspects. She always turned down Daltroff's proposals, so they never married. But, she did become an equal partner and shareholder in the business, and when Daltroff fled Nazi-occupied France to Canada (he was Jewish) - he gave her the entire Caron company. He died two years later from cancer - or was it a broken heart?
Shalimar (1925) was inspired by the tragic tale of Shah Jahan (an Indian king) to his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. She died in child birth and left him broken hearted. The perfume is named after the gardens of shalimar, where the royal lovers spent their happy times together before her untimely death. Next to them Shah Jahan build the Taj Mahal - a tomb and monument for Mumtaz Mahal. His resting place is adjacent to it, so he can watch her monumental beauty for many years. The perfume contains all the abundance of the imaginary oriental garden and is presented in a bottle that resembles a water fountain - or a fruit bowl. Take your pick.
Femme (1944) was released by Marcel Rochas as a coming-of-age tribute to his wife, Hélène. It was, however, created earlier by Edmond Roudnitska, with whatever raw materials he had from a raw material supplier he worked with. The materials were inevitably aged during the war and he quality of the perfume has a certain darkness to it that truly reflects its time. Despite the gravity of the events outside, Roudnitska maintained his creative spirit and his commitment to his art. And that, to me, is the true love story behind this perfume.
Chamade (1969) is the name of a particular military drum beat, and also doubles as the heartbeat of surrender - to love, of course. Jean-Paul Guerlain said he created it for a certain woman in mind - but won't reveal who she was. With notes of black currents, ylang ylang and green galbanum over a base of vanilla and oakmoss it was one of the perfumes that predicted the sharp-angled greens of the 1970's.
Please leave a comment with perfumes that were inspired by a love story - tragic or otherwise. Among the commentators, there will be a lucky draw on Friday, February 22nd, to win a package with a mini of Immortelle l'Amour - my own contribution to the world of broken-heart-inspired perfumes.