Art & Fashion: 32 posts

What Does Rembrandt’s Chiaroscuro Smell Like?

Her golden hair, her pearly skin, and her melancholy face emerge out of the shadows. Bathsheba, an Old Testament heroine desired by King David enough to conspire the murder of her husband, has been painted by many artists, but few have rendered her beauty and her story with as much nuance as did Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.  As Rembrandt’s Bathsheba holds the fateful letter from David summoning her, she is torn between the loyalty towards her spouse and the need to obey king’s command. The duality pervades the entire work, from the subject’s moral dilemma to the drama of the light and shadows.

Born in 1606, Rembrandt remains the emblematic figure of the 17th century Dutch Baroque, and his remarkable use of light continues to beguile. As this year marks the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death, museums around the world stage exhibits devoted to his works. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam presents his paintings alongside other Dutch and Spanish masters such as Diego Velázquez, Frans Hals, and Francisco Zurbarán.  The Dulwich Picture Gallery in London focuses on his masterful use of chiaroscuro, highlighting the theatrical effects of the Baroque style.

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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.

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.

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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