Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Prompted by a question about a fragrance I would associate with Matisse, I began to reflect on what perfume would capture the strength of the lines, the vibrancy of the colors, the alluring delicacy of the finished composition as well as the Mediterranean feel pervading his works. If there is one fragrance that contains all of these elements, it must be Jean Patou Vacances.
Vacances was created in 1936, alluding to the introduction of the first paid holidays in France. Its vibrant spicy opening shimmers like sun rays hitting the water, before rich greenness softens the sizzle of carnation. Galbanum with its scent of sliced green peppers is a perfect counterpoint to the wave of honeyed powderiness that emerges next. The breath of lilac wafts in like a scent carried by the wind through an open window. At first, it merely teases, weaving gently through the heart of the composition, until finally it solidifies, resting on a soft musky base. The colors of the composition are hardly subtle—the intense verdancy of hyacinth and galbanum, the dark powderiness of mimosa, the rich sweetness of lilac. Yet, the resulting fragrance is a perfect juxtaposition of delicate peppery and green sap notes folding into honeyed sweetness. In my romanticized vision of a town on the Mediterranean coast, this is the scent that would be filling the air.
Painting: Henri Matisse. Woman before Aquarium. 1921. Oil on canvas. Barnes Foundation, Lincoln University, Merion, PA. Thank you for a great question goes to my painter friend Laura, whose site is such an inspiration for me.