Caron Bellodgia : Perfume Review

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Look closely at the Lady with the Unicorn tapestries. Among flowers intertwining around the woman, unicorn and lion, and creating an enchanted atmosphere, tiny dianthus, clove pink, is the most prominent. Likewise, Caron Bellodgia is a fragrance of dreams. It bridges the light and the dark and creates a masterful olfactory chiaroscuro. Bellodgia is a memory of a traveler, capturing the vision of an Italian town on Lake Como, Belladgio. Created in 1927 by Ernest Daltroff, genius perfumer and the founder of Caron, the composition features carnation, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, violet, sandalwood, vanilla and musk.

Lady with unicorn

The top notes are of the powdery carnation which gains a slight peppery bite as the fragrance settles. The jasmine, lily of the valley and rose undulate out of carnation accord one after another creating an interesting composition that changes over time, from one note to another and back, like piano bars being hit by an impatient finger. The dry down is an interplay of warm and musky against cool and mossy. The dark Caron undercurrent whispers of dusky cloisters of medieval churches and throws into relief the gentle sweetness flowers, still hot from the midday sun. Bellodgia may seem soft and simple at first, but over time it reveals its sensuality.

I forgot to add that my preferred concentration is the extrait de parfum; the Eau de Parfum is bland in comparison. As Octavian noted in the comments, it was introduced in 1996, after being reformulated and augmented with the green tea notes.

Note on reformulation May 2011: A carnation gold standard, Bellodgia has been made less spicy and dark over time, but it still preserves its petal rainstorm impression. While I miss the original’s smoldering spicy darkness, I still enjoy the bright rose-carnation accord in the current version. The parfum is richer and warmer, while the Eau de Toilette has a pleasant green note adorning the spicy floral heart.

Image: The Lady and the Unicorn, “Sight” silk tapestry on wood, end of the 15th century, Musée Moyenage, Paris. Discovered by Prosper Mérimée in 1841 in Boussac castle, the tapestries became famous due to the works by George Sand. The amount of detail on the tapestries, as well as hidden allegory, is breathtaking. I must have spent more than an hour at the tapestry gallery, amazed by the vibrant colors and the delicate expressions on the faces of the lady and the mysterious animals. Interestingly enough, the bottom end of the tapestries, which currently appears dark pink underwent restoration. However, synthetic colors could not match the vibrancy of the vegetal dye used by the Flemish weavers. Over time, the restored part faded, while the original remained vivid.

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20 Comments

  • Katie: Every time I go to Nordstrom’s I always make a point to stop and sniff this one, and consider it. I never do end up buying for some reason, and I can’t figure out why. It’s just not “me,” perhaps? I don’t know. It’s quite gorgeous. June 24, 2005 at 2:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: There are plenty of fragrances I like, but would not want to have a full bottle. I understand what you mean. If you have to think too much about whether or not to buy, then it is best not to. June 24, 2005 at 3:41pm Reply

  • Tania: You know, I’ve never tried that one. I always meant to. One of these days, I’ll actually get myself over to that Caron boutique. I’m just so accursedly lazy. June 24, 2005 at 5:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: Tania, you have no excuse at all! Living in NYC and not taking advantage of Caron boutique! Shame, shame, shame on you…. 🙂 I am not sure how you would like Bellodgia, however Coup de Fouet might be the one for you (of course, keep in mind that I am making a guess based on things that you tend to like). I actually tested it and thought–hey, Tania might really like it. June 24, 2005 at 5:31pm Reply

  • BarbarafromCalifornia: Your beautiful and enticing description of the lady with the unicorn is enough to make me want to buy a bottle. Truthfully, V., I think these fragrance companies should hire you to do some ad writing. June 24, 2005 at 6:52pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Barbara! That is a lovely thing to say. Writing these reviews is so enjoyable. June 24, 2005 at 7:51pm Reply

  • mireille: such a lovely image — dianthus within the unicorn tapestry. Barbara’s right … your descriptions/analysis are art. xoxoxo June 25, 2005 at 12:46am Reply

  • Liz smellslikeleaves: I LOVE your description of this fragrance, particularly the way you tie in the images of that beautiful tapestry. I’ve only tried the EDT of Bellodgia, but unfortunately, it was far too powdery for me to enjoy. For whatever reason, I have great difficultly appreciating heavily powdery fragrances (it took me three years to finally warm to L’heure Bleue, thanks to Roja Dove’s insistance). In any case, I should probably give this another chance, and also try the parfum which I hear is quite lovely. June 25, 2005 at 11:43am Reply

  • Victoria: M, thank you for your sweet comment! It means a lot, esp. coming from you.

    Liz, I am glad! I always think about Bellodgia as a fragrance of the lady in those tapestries. Do try parfum, which even if powdery, manages to render these notes with an added luminosity. It makes perfume far more wearable, if you do not care for powdery. June 25, 2005 at 11:48am Reply

  • Tania: Of course you’re right. Shame on me! Hell, I may go today. Coup de Fouet–making a note. Thank you for thinking of me! (Hey, how do you say thank you in Russian? In Cantonese it’s do je and in Mandarin it’s xie xie and in Ilokano it’s salamat.) June 25, 2005 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Diane: Beautiful description! Not that I need another reason to go to Paris, but I must see those tapestries. Hope you’re having a lovely day! 😉 June 25, 2005 at 8:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, D, you have to go to Paris to see them! 🙂 Thank you for your sweet wishes. Today was a lovely day with Mr. P! June 25, 2005 at 9:56pm Reply

  • Octavian: The image of the lady and the unicorn was used by caron as a visual for one of it’s late perfumes in the ’50s. (www.okadi.com). Carnation was a must have of every perfumer and Caron paid hommage to this flower with the wonderfull Belldogia with a creamy powderniss sustained with warm santal. If you try this, smell only the true extrait. it’s the original version. the EDP was created in 1996 and joined a green tea note to the carnation bouquet. June 26, 2005 at 3:49am Reply

  • Victoria: How fascinating! I had no idea about Caron using this image, but it is appropriate, as it is the first thing I have thought of. I did sample extrait de parfum, and I should clarify this in review. June 26, 2005 at 10:29am Reply

  • Octavian: It was used for Farnesiana or Muguet du bonheur, if I remember well. June 26, 2005 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Atreau: Oh the visions, the words, it’s all so much! Please V, write a book on fragrance soon! You’ve captured everything and more! June 27, 2005 at 9:35am Reply

  • Victoria: S, thank you for your sweet comments! If I ever write anything non-Ph.D. related, it would be because of all encouragements I received from you and other friends. June 27, 2005 at 10:34am Reply

  • Marcello: The advertisement for “Le Muguet du Bonheur” (-> okadi.com, the one with the girl in the flower field) was indeed inspired by the “lady and the unicorn” theme; according to Caron biographer Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg, the ad was specifically modelled after Aubusson tapestries. It first appeared in a magazine called Plaisirs de France, in 1953. The ad depicting the woman surrounded by decorative letters (“FARNESIANA”) was inspired by manuscripts from the Middle Ages. It was designed for Vogue by Paul Ternat in 1948. I think it’s one of the prettiest images ever used in perfume advertisements. August 7, 2005 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Victoria: Marcello, thank you very much for letting me know! I spent quite a bit of time browsing through the site, which makes me realize how much I love artwork for the marketing materials from that era. The ads in question are gorgeous, especially the one for Farnesiana. August 7, 2005 at 8:29pm Reply

  • Mary: Bellodgia was my mother’s favorite scent and has long been a favorite orf mine. For years it was only available here in Chicago at Marshall Field’s. As a teenager, I was allowed to dab some behind my ears if I had a date. I haven’t seen it in retail stores, but I was able to purchase some at Sephora.com September 12, 2007 at 4:09pm Reply

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