Culture: 327 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Night, Moon and Jasmine

I enjoyed your comments on the recent post when I’ve asked you to match scents to a baroque Spanish still life. In my collection, I have a beautiful Mughal period miniature depicting a woman draped in jasmine. I couldn’t resist tossing it among–which fragrance would you pick to represent the mood of this painting.

As you can see, the lady has a bottle of perfume and a flask of rosewater in front of her.

Image by Bois de Jasmin

Spanish Still Life : A Study of Jasmine and Fruit

I first saw this painting during an exhibition in Brussels devoted to Spanish still life art and it stayed in my memory. The artist behind it is Benito Espinós (1748-1818), whose still life floral arrangements are among the most dramatic and varied.

If you could match this painting to a perfume, what would you select?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, detail, at the Spanish Still Life exhibit, Bozar.

Tamara Toumanova’s Perfume Collection

Called “the Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet” for her glamorous look and dramatic beauty, Tamara Toumanova (1919-1996) was as memorable on stage as she was behind the curtains. I very much like this photo showing the ballerina before a performance surrounded by icons, flowers and perfume bottles. It reminded of the gift that the American avant-garde artist Joseph Cornell presented to her in 1968.

Called Untitled, the box contained eleven perfume bottles filled with objects that captured the essence of Toumanova’s performances. Some bottles contain fragments of the costumes she wore to dance Don Quixote and Les Sylphides. Another one includes fragments of painted eggs, colored beads and gold threads, referring to Easter rites and the importance of the Orthodox faith for the dancer. Looking at the photo above, I can see why Cornell’s was an ideal gift for Toumanova.

Anyone care to guess the names of the perfumes on her vanity table?

5 Things That Inspire Me

When I work on any long-term project, my office looks as if a tornado went through it. Since I prefer to work at a low table sitting on a cushion, my legs folded in the lotus position, I use the floor around me as my canvas. Books, research materials, and reference volumes cover it in random looking piles and mixed among them are items I find inspiring. Of course, the chaos is not entirely random, and I can tell you where I have my Japanese-English dictionary, Philip Kraft’s guide to fragrance chemistry or a volume of Persian poetry, without having to get up from my table. (The table, by the way, was a $10 acquisition from a Turkish shop, intended for making phyllo pastry.)

Casting a quick glance at the items that surround me today, I realized that they are much more than the materials I use for my writing, but rather the things that inspire me, the things that give me pleasure simply by looking at or touching them. I’m sure everyone can make such an inspiration collage–and I’m sure that for every person it would be different, but I wanted to share mine with you.

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Illyria : Postcard from Albania

I was walking up the hill, leaving behind me the ancient town of Apollonia with its graceful ruins of temples and arcades, when I saw this vista. A golden field, a tree, blue skies. The setting sun colored the burned grasses dark gold, and if I turned around, I could see a ribbon of the sea glittering on the horizon. But I stared straight ahead. Centuries compress into seconds when one sees visions like this. This could have been Illyria.

Illyria is what this land in the west of the Balkan Peninsula was called in antiquity. Today, its largest part is in Albania. The town of Apollonia was famous for its university, and it was here that in 44 BC Gaius Octavius Thurinus learned of the assassination of his great-uncle Julius Caesar. Being named Caesar’s heir, he rushed to Rome to claim the throne and become emperor Augustus. He never finished his university studies, but it didn’t prevent him from being one of the most brilliant of Roman statesmen.

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  • Mary in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: I recommend Daim Blonde and the original Bottega Veneta. Yes, thank you, you can contact me. October 16, 2019 at 9:35pm

  • Charlotte Barrow in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: What about Coco Chanel? It’s very different from Coco Mademoiselle; lots of spice and sandalwood 🙂 Serge Luten’s Santal de Mysore has lots of spices alongside the sandalwood; very soft… October 16, 2019 at 5:23pm

  • Karina in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: 1. Serge Lutens, Gris Clair (like a cashmere jumper) Parlez moi de parfum, Milky Musc Kenzo, Jungle L’Elephant (strong though, and there is vanilla so if that scares you off… October 16, 2019 at 3:49pm

  • sillage4ever in Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Giveaway: I’ve been wearing the nutty, dried fig leaves scent of Imaginary Authors’ Yesterday Haze and think it’s a terrific autumn perfume that veers away from the usual gourmands. Coco Mademoiselle… October 16, 2019 at 11:06am

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