Travel: 65 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

Angels and Mysteries of Johann Georg Pinsel

Johann Georg Pinsel is a mystery. Nobody knows where he was born, where he studied or even if Pinsel is his real name. The only thing that is certain is that he could make wood shed blood and tears. Last summer I found myself in the small town of Buchach where Pinsel worked and died. In just ten years, between 1750 and 1760, he created a series of sculptures and carvings of extraordinary drama and complexity. Pinsel’s angels flutter, his saints grieve, his Christ extends his hand to you in mercy.

pinsel

From 28 October 2016 to 12 February 2017, the Belvedere in Vienna will honor this Baroque master, giving viewers a rare chance to see his work up close. He was active in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv (Lemberg during his lifetime) and decorated many churches in the region with his wood and stone sculptures.

Many art historians compare the power of his work to that of Michelangelo, and the only reason you haven’t heard of Pinsel is because his work came to light fairly recently. Like much of Ukraine, Pinsel’s masterpieces were affected by the terrible events of the 20th century. Just to give you an example: Lviv changed hands no fewer than eight times between 1914 and 1945. Then the Soviets destroyed the churches where Pinsel’s sculptures were housed. It’s a miracle that any of his works have survived.

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Asya’s Idea of Paradise

The word paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, “an enclosed garden,” and for a Ukrainian, a cherry orchard is an idea of Eden. It has the same potent connotations as a white picketed fence house in the context of the American dream. It doesn’t mean that all Ukrainians dream of retreating to the village and tending to cherries—no more so than all Americans want to live in the suburbs and obsess over greens lawns—but the image has force beyond its mere components.

cherry-orchard1

In many folk songs, the cherry orchard is where friends meet, families gather for supper and beloved yearn for each other. It is a place of safety and beauty. It evokes all of the things that matter—family, love, friendship, bounty. It’s not a coincidence that one of the most popular works in Ukrainian literature is a short poem by the national bard Taras Shevchenko. Recite the opening lines to any Ukrainian—“A cherry orchard by the house. Above the cherries beetles hum”–and you will see his face light up and his mind travel to his own fantasy garden. “And nightingale their vigil keep,” he murmurs the poem’s romantic coda*.

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The Secret of Scent or Adventures in Provence

If you were to pick the ultimate scent destination, it would have to be Provence. This region in the south of France has been the cradle of the modern perfume industry since the end of the 18th century, but even before that it was known for its aromatics–lavender, mimosa, rosemary, genet, and other perfumed plants. Although today Provence’s days as the center of rose and jasmine cultivation are long gone, it’s still a place for a fragrance lover when the air is perfumed with the salty-green scent of lavender and garrigue, a distinctly Provencal medley of herbs.

provence-herbs

In October, when I arrived in Luberon, the first thing I smelled was the fallen leaves and briny breeze. The mistral, a cold northwesterly wind, denuded the tall plantain trees, but it cleared the sky of clouds and it looked so blue that even the air felt turquoise. I arrived at the hotel Moulin de Vernègues, the venue for The Secret of Scent.

The Secret of Scent is a three-day course by Science & Vacation, a company that specializes in events combining sensory explorations–vacation, in other words–with an educational angle. I was to lecture for three days about the history and art of perfumery, while Luca Turin had a similar task, but with a focus on the science. To be honest, I was a little bit nervous.  While I give perfumery courses on a regular basis, my audience is usually industry folk–marketing, sales people and perfumers. While they’re not necessarily experts on all of the subjects I cover, I at least know the rough outlines of their knowledge. The Secret of Scent was open to everyone, and I wasn’t sure what our participants would be interested to learn.

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Explaining Oud and Middle Eastern Perfume Trends

I get lots of requests to talk about perfume trends–what themes are promising to remain popular, why white florals are perennial favorites, what we might see in the upcoming season, and other questions along these lines. Answering them is a bit like reading a crystal ball, and some marketing agencies earn a nice profit doing just that. On the other hand, what people wear in different countries and why they enjoy what they do is something I find fascinating. This is the topic of my recent FT column, Perfumes with Middle Eastern panache. Based on my travels and interviews, the article explains why fragrance is such an integral part of Middle Eastern culture and how European perfume houses are taking note of it.

middle-eastern-perfumes

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A Visit to Musée Lalique

Andrea, a Bois de Jasmin reader, recently visited the Lalique museum in Alsace, France and sent me a few photos from her trip. When François Coty made his famous statement, “Give a woman the best product you can make, present it in a perfect flacon with beautiful simplicity and impeccable taste, ask her to pay a reasonable price, and that will be the birth of a business such as the world has never seen,” Lalique flacon is what he meant. The idea was revolutionary, and together Coty and Lalique made history. And take a look at these stunning bottles! Don’t they themselves look like works of art?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Andrea mentioned that at the museum you can see Lalique wares for all purposes, from sacred to profane–from liturgical objects to different types of decorations. There are perfume bottles and powder boxes, car trinkets and jewelry. You can also discover the interior design Lalique created for luxury liners and trains! If that were not enough, at the museum shop you can purchase Lalique perfumes, save for the Noir Premier Collection.

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  • SHMW in Woods : Scents and Words: This sounds like you don’t think of Tam Dao as cedar dominated/ I like Tam Dao but probably love the sandalwood in Ormonde Woman most. It seems such a ‘real’… March 30, 2017 at 8:04am

  • Nora Szekely in Woods : Scents and Words: Hi Victoria and perfume lovers, Sandalwood is hands down my favourite ever since my grandmother brought me back a sandalwood fan from Asia when I was a little girl. I’m… March 30, 2017 at 4:29am

  • Alicia in Cedarwood : Perfume Note: I just realize that we are talking only of cedar, thus I will change Coromandel by my equally beloved Cuir de Russie. There are too many Lutens fragrances with cedar… March 29, 2017 at 8:08pm

  • Alicia in Cedarwood : Perfume Note: How I love woods in fragrances! Let me count the ways. Coromandel is my companion when I write and research in winter evenings; Bois de Violette is my autumn and… March 29, 2017 at 7:53pm

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