July 5, 2007

Vintage Perfumes - Remembrance of Things Past

Summer is a good time to begin or to reread Proust, or Colette, or Nabokov, or any of the specifically detailed writers about everyday beauty of the past, or to personally revisit many of the experiences similar to their described sense memories which recur every year in the summer. The linden trees in flower in the city parks, the strong scent of sun brewed iced tea, the ocean air's salt tang, all have inspired perfumes that are closely associated with heat and summer cycles of humid days broken by thunderstorms or bright sun bringing out the scent of everything.

In the past few years the practice of re-releasing vintage scents has been reaching a crescendo. Guerlain, Chanel, Patou, Rogeon's much coveted recreations of Poiret's Les Parfums de Rosine, and many others have decided to participate in the currently fashionable practice of recreating certain legendary formulas so that those who have the desire for sensory time travel may create their own associative memories and be connected to a beautiful past.

The growing interest in such special perfumes is partly due to the work of the Osmotheque in Versailles, the French perfume conservatory/museum which has collected and also recreated the original versions of disappearing perfumes. They are preserving and educating as to the "endangered species" of scent, which are now recognized as an important part of French culture and art. It is said that there was a certain element of skank underpinning many of the perfumes of the far past than we are comfortable with these days, and that our modern perfumes are generally forceful and strong. Because fashion works in cycles it has been predicted that in the next few years inevitably there will be a big change in what is designed and desired in fragrance.

Very possibly we will look back on this and the last decade with our own very particular sense memories tied to aesthetic ideals that will be very much in contrast to what will next evolve as the contemporary form for beauty.

Above, The Roses of Heliogabalus by Alma Tadema 1888 - a very different conception of beauty than than our own, tho it certainly looks like they are having fun.

Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell
that was once associated with it.
- Nabokov

Copyright 2007-2013 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved


chayaruchama said...

Dearest L-
If that is so, then what will our synthetic, linear, watery scents say about us ?
Or the forceful, generic industrial-strength ones ?

It makes me shudder.

[On a more positive note- my teenager can't wait to put his grubby lil' paws on Nabokov... THAT tickles me. Hope for the next generation !]

Lucy said...

How wonderful for him! To have that to look forward to!

Henna said...

This was very nicely written!

Skin Care Beauty Zone said...

hi lucy

u have written a nice article,keep it up

Barbara Delaney said...

I just happened upon this entry six years to the day since you wrote it. I've just begun re-reading Proust, I agree, this is the perfect season for reading this lush prose.

I'm happy that I've found your blog. I linked to it from a google page about "Remembrance of Things Past", synchronicity strikes again.