Perfumers & Artists: 73 posts

Articles about perfumers, artists and other interesting personalities. Also, please see Interviews.

The Passion of Johann Georg Pinsel

It’s not often that a sculptor causes me to crisscross Europe in search of his traces. But Johann Georg Pinsel did just that. I took rickety marshrutka buses to distant Ukrainian villages to see his work at local churches. I visited many a palace where fragments of his sculptures were displayed–a wing of an angel, a headless saint, a saint motioning one to come closer and listen to the revelation. Finally, I made it to Lviv, a western Ukrainian city, and later to Vienna, the center that once exerted considerable political power over Lviv. These journeys spanned almost a year, intertwined as they were around other trips and exploration, but somehow, Pinsel, a mysterious 18th century master, was the leitmotif.

Very little is known about Pinsel. His name was only established with certainty in the 1990s. Where was he born? With whom he did study? The area where he chose to work was the Lviv region, at the time a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and after the first Partition of Poland in 1772, a part of the Habsburg Empire. After Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939, these territories once again exchanged hands and ended up in the Soviet Union. This bloody and brutal history had consequences for the master who has been dead for almost two centuries–he was forgotten.

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The Invention of Minimalism

A group of students was standing in front of the Mark Rothko painting taking notes as the museum guide talked about the artist’s life and his inspirations. I would have walked past the crowd had the curator not suddenly dropped one phrase, “As we all know, minimalism in art was invented in the West.” I was admiring Rothko’s use of vermilion red, an intense hue that made me think of Indian kumkum (the crimson powder Hindu women use to draw a mark on their foreheads) and Russian lacquers, when the West claimed Minimalism.

nishapur-bowl

Leaving aside the absurdity of referring to Rothko as a “minimalist”–a label he would have rejected outright, it’s senseless to separate artistic achievements by arbitrary parameters. To see why, one should leave the halls devoted to 20th century art and walk through, say, the expositions usually housed in the Eastern wings. If the museum in question is the Met in New York, then the Department of Islamic Art is where I would take you.

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The Layered World of Anand Ram Mukhlis

Bureaucracy rarely conjures positive associations in most people’s minds, and for someone who faces far too much of it, I may not seem like the kind of person who goes into raptures over bureaucrats. Yet, Anand Ram Mukhlis (1699-1750)* is an exception, and he is easily one of my favorite historical personages. Born into a Hindu family in the north of India, he practiced a trade that wouldn’t be out of place in Washington DC or Brussels. Like his grandfather and father, he was a personal representative at the Delhi imperial court for the prime minister and for the governor of  Lahore and Multan provinces. A lobbyist, if you will.

muhammad shah

Emperor Muhammad Shah with courtiers, ca. 1730

The most lasting achievement of Anand Ram Mukhlis was in his scholarly and creative work. He wrote poetry, chronicled contemporary events and compiled manuals on the proper use of Persian. His mastery of the language was such that the emperor Muhammad Shah himself requested his services as a letter writer when he wanted to communicate with the Safavid court in Iran. One of the images I used to illustrate this article is a copy of Mukhlis’s advice on developing one’s writing style in Persian. It’s titled “Fairy House,” which gives you a clue as to the ornate stylistic tools he proposed.

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Catherine Deneuve’s Beauty and Perfume Routine

Celebrity perfumes come and go, but Deneuve, created by the French screen goddess, remains a legend. More than any other discontinued perfume, this green leather-chypre, an heir to Miss Dior and No 19, comes up in readers’ queries time and again. Catherine Deneuve is the ultimate perfume lover; Bois de Jasmin even has a Catherine Deneuve tag as a testament to her scent obsession and my admiration. I’m pleased to add another item to my list: the Into the Gloss article, in which Deneuve describes her beauty routine, her love for Cle de Peau powder, Carnal Flower and Francis Kurkdjian’s nose.

“When I start a film, I like to have a special fragrance to wear for it. So, I’m starting a film tomorrow and I’m going to wear Frederic Malle’s Eau de Magnolia—I like it because with every perfume, he works with a different person to do something special. After the film, I keep the perfume, and when I wear it I remember the experience. It’s not something I’ve always done, but I’ve been doing it for a few years. And also I like very much the perfume of Francis Kurkdjian, becaue he’s very special. He’s the one who did the first perfume of Jean Paul Gaultier but now he’s doing perfume for himself. I like his nose.

In the summer, I love to wear jasmine. It’s a very natural, floral scent, but at the same time, has something a little deeper. There’s a musk from Frederic Malle—Carnal Flower—that he also makes as a Hair Mist which I love. Also orange blossom—that’s lovely. Read more.”

Another interesting read is Catherine Deneuve on Her Favorite Perfume and Other Fragrance Topics. The woman is a perfumista, I tell you.

Photograph of Catherine Deneuve via Cineteve, from Anne Andreu’s biography released in 2010. Also highly recommended.

Hope and Angels of Natalia Satsyk

“One face haunted me for a long time, and I knew that I had to paint it,” says Natalia Satsyk, a Ukrainian artist whose exhibition is currently on display at the St.-Adelbert Abbey in the Dutch town of Egmond-Binnen. The face gazes from her canvases. Sometimes it resembles Congolese masks, elongated and sharply defined. Sometimes it is rendered with bold strokes and dramatic colors. The gender may be obscured, as is the body to which it is attached, and what strikes me the most is the depth of sorrow and the pain I see in its eyes. And also the radiance of hope.
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One of the unexpected outcomes of the independence achieved by Ukraine in 1993 is the vibrant art scene. Despite political and economic problems and meager state support, artists gave cities like Lviv, Kyiv and Kharkhiv a vitality they hadn’t experienced since the avant-garde of the 1910s and 1920s, a period that produced works by Kazemir Malevich, David Burliuk, Aleksandra Ekster, and other leading futurists. Satsyk is based in Lviv, a town in the western part of Ukraine, and she’s a part of the new, dynamic movement of young artists who are not afraid to take risks and question conventions.

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  • Ann in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: Thank you Mayfly – Fleurs de Sel sounds really really good – i’m definitely adding it to my sample list. Thank you!! June 29, 2017 at 12:05am

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  • Ann in Recommend Me a Perfume June 2017: No, I haven’t, but Sycamore sounds very interesting. I wish the Chanel counter’s carried more than number 5, Coco and mademoiselle Coco. Adding to my list, thank you for the… June 29, 2017 at 12:02am

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