January 8, 2009

Siena/Fare Bella Figura

The Italian way of life known as fare bella figura (make a beautiful figure) combines a personal appreciation of beauty, appropriateness in behavior, and pride in self presentation. It is wholeheartedly embraced in Italy as an enjoyable way to make the world a better place for yourself and everyone who comes into contact with you. The essential element is to present yourself at your best. To keep yourself beautifully groomed, wearing an elegantly designed, thoughtful and well made ensemble, while maintaining a graceful, self confident and gracious demeanor. It's all about the strength of cultivating the power of beauty and proportion. As a philosophy of life it is one of the reasons Italy itself has maintained its beauty and richness over the vagaries and vicissitudes of time.

This attitude of fare bella figura in combination with the beauties of the past in art and architecture, as we see in the conception of Ambrogio Lorenzetti's image of The Effects of Good Government (something I hope to see get started in our own country before the month is out) results in the experience of a satisfying, complex and hospitable atmosphere as people go about the business and pleasures of life, harmoniously.

Siena and Siennese artists and architecture of the 1300s and 1400s are a preciously beautiful example of using natural local materials, color and composition with the priority of achieving beauty. Amazing to think after all the wars and plagues and tribulations that so much is still standing from those days in Siena. The earth itself, as raw siena and burnt siena are still the staple earth colors of oil paint. The rich auburn golden brown of the earth and the walls of the city and the color are the same.

There are two scents I have on today, one on one arm and one on the other, that are vastly uplifting my winter day, as I hover on the brink of a cold. Sienne l'Hiver (Sienna winter) by Eau de Italie, created by Bertrand Duchaufour (who has my vote as the most refined skillful and inventive perfumer alive) on one arm, and Terra di Siena by i Profumi di Firenze (Siennese earth) on the other. Both have a similar cool earthy herbaceous crispness surrounding a burning center. T di S is the more sheer and transparent one. It is slightly more herbaceous than S l'H; more about citrus and mint plant material being poured over a soft vanilla sandalwood core. On the other hand, the heart of S l'H keeps the tang of the body present in the form of earthy smokey leather under a sheer mimosa veil. The notes that are listed for both perfumes are, I am sure, only partial and do not explain the subtle beauty of the resulting compositions.

I would say they are both a sharp quiver in the bow to target the heart in winter.


chayaruchama said...

Lyrical and lovely, Ms. L !

While I admire each greatly- for the works of artwhich they clearly are- neither will sing the Siren's song on my skin.
They want to pout in an excessively unattractive, puerile manner, esp. Sienne l'Hiver, the naughty thing....

Kisses to you and my special canine companion.

Lucy said...

O C, I am shocked, since there have been many things that have done so well on both of us, I would have thought this one too. But then there is a certain cold tone to these that I can understand might not agree with you.

Thank heavens there are some perfumes we don't absolutely have to have! It's bad enough already.

Dante kisses your hand in his thoughts...as you know he has that medieval courtliness...