perfume lover’s chicago: 1 post

Scented Trail Through The Art Institute of Chicago

1) South German, Triptych of the Virgin and Child with Saints, 1505/15

“How can you make a drawing look appetizing?” I muttered under my breath as I pushed the pencil across the white paper. I was trying to draw my first still life of two apples and a pear. “It should look good enough to eat. Also, pay attention to the light and shadows,” the teacher kept reminding us. If I were to compile the images that spell frustration to me, a scene of my 8 year old self sitting in my art class in front of two apples and a pear is one of them. How can one capture the taste, the scent, the emotion in a painting? Years later, as I started thinking more about how to capture a sensation in a drop of perfumed liquid, I began to search for clues in art.

I spent a lot of time at the Art Institute of Chicago during my student days. It has free visiting hours on certain days, and I still think of it as my favorite museum, mostly because it feels very familiar. During my visit over Christmas, I wanted to take photos of a few favorite paintings, but instead I started snapping details that caught my eye–an angel’s brocaded skirt, a hand holding a book, a glistening string of pearls on a white neck.

When I suddenly noticed the shy whiteness of lily of the valley near Santa Margareta’s cloak (painting 1), I could almost smell Diorissimo around me. So I kept taking photos of elements that conveyed a smell, a taste or a tactile sensation to me. I tried playing the game of assigning a perfume to each painting, but I was with my husband, whose fragrance knowledge is still limited, despite years of being my captive audience. He told me that I should play this game with you and let him enjoy the paintings in peace.

So feel free to join my husband in just looking at the images, but if you want to play along, tell me what perfumes these paintings suggest to you.

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