Culture: 331 posts

Art, travel, books, history

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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The Color of Love

“Even before the two worlds took shape, there was the color of love.” The 14th poet from Shiraz, Hafez, embodies for most the most beautiful and poignant of what the poetic Sufi tradition has produced. This mystical branch of Islam encourages the experience of the divine through one’s personal quest, and it fits with my idea of spirituality. According to the Sufi worldview, the divine is in the details. In every leaf. In every jasmine petal. In every exhalation of a rose. In oneself. The search for it gives meaning to all that one does. And art in all of its manifestations is the way to connect to something greater than oneself, to bridge the two worlds, the inner world of spirit and the outer world of the material.

What is the place of love then? For Hafez, who stays true to the Sufi tradition in his writing, it’s the most important state that can be. Without love, it’s impossible to understand the divine. Which is why in his famous poem he says that even before the idea for the world existed, there was love. Love intoxicates. Love breaks all barriers. Love enlivens. Love takes one out of oneself. Love transcends all. Love makes you feel alive.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Tourmaline in 10 Ways to Use Rosewater : Perfume, Beauty & Food: Hi Royalty, My understanding is that perfume is usually made using essential oils rather than waters. However, as per Victoria’s first suggested use for rosewater, you could use the water… November 12, 2019 at 10:03am

  • Mariana in Recommend Me a Perfume : October 2019: Hello. I am currently looking for a new scent. I am a casual person and pretty practical. I would like sth discrete and delicate. My favorite scent is Pure by… November 12, 2019 at 9:33am

  • lobna fatnassi in Why Do We Love Perfume: I love perfume as much I love my kids both can make me feel happy in second I forget whatever broke me or make me tired children and perfume has… November 12, 2019 at 5:02am

  • Fleurycat in Power to the Pumpkin in Art and Perfume: My favorite is the fragrance of Sanitas Skincare Pumpkin Enzyme Mask, which has a lovely, gentle pumpkin fragrance. It feels very nourishing, and leaves my skin smooth, soft and refined. November 12, 2019 at 2:01am

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