Culture: 331 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Power to the Pumpkin in Art and Perfume

“My love of pumpkins stretches back to when I was a little child,” says artist Yayoi Kusama. “I have always found them to be such tender things to touch and so wonderfully humorous, humble and appealing.” A recurring motif in her artworks, her pumpkins are cast in bronze, covered in polka dots – as with the 10m-high inflatable version that recently popped up in Paris’s Place Vendôme – or lit by a warm glow. The effect is both whimsical and eerie, resonating with childhood memories of Halloween and autumnal stillness. In my recent article in FT magazine, Power to the Pumpkin, I explore the Japanese artist’s way with pumpkins–as well as that of perfumers. Both are fun and surprising.

When it comes to the taste and smell of this fruit masquerading as a vegetable, most people find it hard to describe, but a bite of pumpkin pie or a whiff of roasted squash brings comforting associations. Fruity, with a hint of apricot and orange, pumpkin also smells of earthy green melon. Some varieties, like the Japanese kabocha that inspires Kusama, have a milky scent, but subtlety is the common characteristic. To continue reading, please click here.

Do you know any other scents with pumpkin?

Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at Her Bath

This year marks 350 years since the death of Rembrandt (1606-1669), and many museums around the world are hosting exhibitions, lectures and other events dedicated to the master of Dutch baroque. For our art & scent series, I’ve selected one of my favorite paintings by Rembrandt, Bathsheba at Her Bath. It depicts the moment when Bathsheba receives a letter from King David, summoning her. Most other paintings cast Bathsheba as seductress and temptress, but Rembrandt portrays her as a woman facing a difficult moral dilemma, torn between loyalty to her husband and her obligation to obey the royal order.

Like in other paintings by Rembrandt, the play of light and shadows create a powerful dramatic effect. It’s baroque at its most dazzling and alluring.

So, what fragrance would you use to capture the mood of this painting? If none exists, please feel free to fantasize and invent your own.

Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure : June 2-9, 2020

Please join us on an exciting adventure in the spellbindingly beautiful region of Transcarpathia. Located in western Ukraine, Transcarpathia is famous for its mountains, wild flowers, artisanal crafts and food, and it will be the next venue for the Bois de Jasmin perfumery course.

Over 8 days, you will learn the basics of perfumery and perfume creation and how to hone your sense of smell, but you will also be immersed in Ukrainian flavors and scents.

We will travel from the capital city of Kiev all the way west to the historical city of Lviv, and along our journey we will cook, eat, smell, have fun and discover Ukraine’s many treasures, from UNESCO heritage sites to smoked pears!

And the best part is that you will be visiting Ukraine in June, the best season to experience its aromas, colors and tastes. You’ll understand Nikolai Gogol’s raptures over this season—“how luxuriously warm the hours when mid-day glitters in stillness and sultry heat…”–and why Ukraine for me is the place of eternal summer.

I’m partnering with Nataliya Cummings of the Experience Ukraine tour company. Nataliya, who is based in the UK, has been organizing highly sought after tours around the country for over a decade, and I’m thrilled about our joint project. We will show you the best of what Ukraine has to offer, while allowing you to combine your discoveries with perfumery workshops.

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Boris Pasternak : Let’s drop words as gardens drop orange-peel and amber

The garden stood still and fragile, ready to drop golden leaves at the gentlest breeze. I woke up early and as I stepped out of the house, I didn’t anticipate the ethereal beauty of autumn. I too stood still, my hand outstretched to pick a red apple forgotten on a bare branch. Fall cast its spell on me, and I didn’t want to shake it off.

The last time I was in Ukraine in autumn was in 1993, but I don’t recall visiting Poltava, the place where my grandmother Valentina lives, at that time. When I still lived in Ukraine, I would usually be in school. Once I was already abroad, I would return only in spring or summer. This spontaneous visit happened because of a series of events out of my control, but as I stood in the orchard filled with golden light, I realized what a gift fate has given me. To experience perfect beauty when one least expects it is after all one of the greatest blessings in life.

Such moments aren’t grand. As Boris Pasternak (1890 – 1960) writes in one of his most moving poems, “life, like an autumn stillness, is all detail.” Noticing these details and capturing them is essential. When people ask me why I find the sense of smell so fascinating, I respond simply–it allows me to pay attention to details. If you notice the scent of fallen leaves, you will also notice the delicate etching of their veins, the lemon yellow hue, the silvery mist that turns the landscape into an impressionist painting, the sound your steps make in a quiet orchard. Your ability to slow down and pay attention to such things is the essence of enjoying life, of living it fully, of savoring every moment, whatever the circumstances.

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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

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