May 2, 2010

Canturi

Many jewelry designers are drawn to making perfumes, and vice versa. I am thinking of Bulgari, JAR, Van Cleef and Arpels, and also a number of independent artisan perfumers such as Serena Franco of Ava Luxe, and Ayala Moriel, and Roxana Villa. The luxury, lore and beauty of the materials and their skillful presentation seem related; they are arts that are like sensual and psychological cousins.

Stefano Canturi has joined the list. He recently opened a New York location on Madison Avenue for his jewelry and launched a perfume that relates to his lifelong affinity to a certain type of modernism. He worked very closely with perfumer Kevin Verspoor basing this perfume, as he has a jewelry collection, on a strong sense of connection to the early modern art movement of Cubism.

Early modernism had a sense of confidence in the future and the energy of invention. Cubist painting translated and distilled the world into abstract forms, simplified depictions of reality that built into complexity because of its desire to show all sides of everything and everyone, simultaneously. This sense of wanting to know and explain everything and experience everything at once relates to our own time, through our desire and ability to research and connect to the full background and information about people, places and things. Cubism showed that the history and possibly even the future of all things show themselves in the present moment, and that it is primarily the attitude and style of a perceptive vision that creates and appreciates personal forms of beauty.

Cubism is associated with a certain disciplined, clean yet still hand-made form of modernism, in its typical colors of gray, pale yellow and taupe, black and white lines and collage, textures and references to real materials like straw and tobacco and wine and coffee, translated in a graphic way. Chypre has that same astringency and clarity, a bracing presence of crushed herbs and grass drying in the seaside sun, and evaporating alcohol coolness.

This oriental woody chypre perfume has warmed up the classical formula of chypre. The composition lists notes of bergamot, mandarin leaves, neroli, rose damascene, night-blooming jasmine, iris, lily of the valley, white pepper, cardamom, patchouli, red cedar, oak moss, amber, musk and vanilla. This extensive list sounds like it would make something dense and complicated but it results in a softened smoothness laid over an astringent chypre that provides the armature holding it all together. So it has a cool warmth, a tart smoothness, a relaxed but upright posture, a number of its sides and facets are revealed at the same time.

Even with the smoothing, calm notes of amber, vanilla, jasmine, musk and rose the scent keeps a chypre’s bracing, serious quality in the dry down, being well grounded by the red cedar, oak moss and the coolness of iris. I find it has the quiet clarity of hot sun evaporating cool water, an ethereal lightness that feels smart (in all senses of the word).

I like to think of it this way, in the heat of these recent summery days the Cubist reference connects to that period of time when the Riviera was still an undiscovered artists’ getaway. These scent notes can bring you back to those summers when the Cubists gathered where the heat of the sun brought out the scents of nature well into the warm night, and heated bare skin was cooled by rising ocean breezes at the cafĂ© tables collecting glasses of strong local wine, while aesthetic debates and drawings were carried on as fluently and naturally as breathing.

Above, Braque painting, Woman with a Guitar, 1913
Canturi perfume bottle based on Stefano Canturi design

9 comments:

Roxana said...

How fascinating Lucy, now I want to experience the perfume. Love the bottle!

Lucy said...

Roxana,

He's an intense guy, and gave a presentation at the spring Sniffa, at Bergdorf's, which stood out...I understand he will also be designing for Cartier now

StyleSpy said...

Oh, that bottle!! ::thud::

chayaruchama said...

It was so interesting...

At our table, it was either love or hate.
Most of our fellow diners didn't like it at all-
But you and I DID, most clearly ;-0

Lucy said...

Dear C/I,

I think some of those ladies were a little too young for the chypre style of perfume, but it's an occasion of exposure, which I am sure will bear fruit eventually. I predict they will wake up one day craving chypres, after the initial surprise wears down. I think it's an acquired taste, like coffee and alcohol. I recall we were both really pleasantly surprised by our first impression, even among an overexposure to about 25 things in a row before 9 am...

ScentScelf said...

Lucy,

I was just commenting to CarmenCanada about the need for people to expose themselves to a new "taste" (when it comes to food) many times before their brains are able to come to any conclusions re: like/dislike...prior to that, it's really about adjustment/acclimation/acquaintance. Whether or not you acquire a taste happens after that...

...I know that I have certainly acquired a taste for the chypre, and certain orientals, as well...including Celine Ellena's Oriental Lounge, which seems to have drawn some heads back into a quizzical reaction. (Of course, the word is she does NOT like orientals, so perhaps that should be set to the side as an example.) Anyway, your description suggests to me I should try to find some of this and see how my "palate" reacts.

I do find it interesting, the phenomenon of combined interest/arts in certain perfumers. Have been thinking about that through a few lenses.

Lucy said...

Very true, dear SS, I recall it took a LOT of exposure for me to appreciate tuberose as a note and now I am in love with it. Thanks for the tip re Oriental Lounge(what a great name anyway) and I must say your writing lately has been so generous in its beauty and open-ness and sharing of personal knowledge, thank you and please keep it up!

ScentScelf said...

Well, thank *you*! :) (with a bit of a blush)

BTW, I contacted Canturi in search of a sample. No go. Though they did invite me to stop into either the NYC or Vegas location. ;)

I am interested. It just will take time. Of course, perhaps being tantalizingly out of reach enhances it in one way...not that I would knowingly succumb to such games.

Lucy said...

Hi SS,

I believe I saw they had samples at Perfumed Court...