Fragrance in the dark: inspired by the role that dreams play in the Clarimonde Story, Ayala Moriel (aka Sender) made perfumed dream pillows, sewing them by hand while listening to the Joy Chan reading of Clarimonde by Theophile Gautier. They are made of white silk with a garnet bead sewn in the center like a small drop of blood.
Dream pillows are sachets meant to be placed inside the larger pillowcase to sleep on at night. The scent is released by your movements, present as you fall asleep and very much present if you wake in the night, and again first thing in the morning.
And also perfumed with the fragrance that Ayala devised:"They are all filled with a sachet of dried herbs that should invoke a restful sleep: valerian roots, violet leaf, lavender buds, and some orris root, patchouli leaves and rose buds for their scent and evocative colour of blood and passion."
The first time I used the dream pillow at night, I got an amplified experience of the perfume lying still in the darkness. Certain notes appeared to unfurl singly and larger, especially the cool note of violet as a highlight."For the Clarimonde perfume, I decidedly chose essences that would build a classic and “typical” spicy-oriental; that which is heavy on the patchouli and eugenol (from cloves). But I also juxtaposed it with notes of flowers that are mentioned in the story: the blue violets in her hair, the red carnation of her lips, the white rose that symbolizes Clarimonde’s life at her chamber (it is not until the last petal falls that we know she is really, truly dead). These all took a life of their own as I read the story, with clear colours, textures and scents… The sensuality of Clarimonde is contrasted (and balanced) by the distance of her beauty and the coldness of her touch, which Romauld feels when she is alive at their first encounter at the church; and is no difference after her death. The story had very interesting palette of colours: mostly black and white, with splashes of colours on the appearance of Clarimonde, mostly of red and blue hues, and the blood is purple… There is only one thing that is yellow in the story: Clarimonde’s blond hair (or gold, as Romuald describes it).So, I have chosen notes that are warm and spicy, such as vintage patchouli and vintage cloves, saffron and carnation to portray the warmth; and a violet accord to bring the cold, moist element to the perfume. Aside from violet leaf and cassie (both very wet and cold smelling essences), I have also used the velvety, candied-violet note of alpha ionone – and this is my first time to use a natural isolate in a perfume. I chose this note not only because I wanted the violets to have a dominant presence; but also because there is something very pure, clear and surreal about this note, which reminds me of Clarimonde’s voice as she speaks to Romuald for the first time in his dream."
Even so, the fragrance is gentle, and though the perception of it is heightened in the darkness, it is not overwhelming. Yet is still very present, like there is a Being in the room with you. I am sure this references the times Clarimonde woke Romauld from sleep by appearing at the foot of his bed.
The perfume itself is classical in its beauty, as an Oriental type. There is a dimensional complexity in the combination of the perfume and the influence of the herbs in the pillow.
As the perfume's violet note singles itself out, the herbs in the pillow emanate a dry warmth. The valerian which could be difficult if too strong is controlled at the right amount, softened but still definitely there. The lavender is very present. The perfume acts as an ornamental overlay on the herbs. The spiciness of the oriental framework behind the coolness of violet comes to the fore. It moves into the carnation next but its marriage to the cooling violet influence makes it almost mentholated in a subtle way.
Yes, the violet still dominates over the carnation and stays with it but you can decide what aspect you would rather focus on, the cool of the violet or the warmth of the background notes. I have had vivid dreams.
Ayala had a strong sense of the tragedy of Romauld’s ultimate betrayal of Clarimonde. I agree. Even after all she gave him, the wealth and luxuries and freedom, he strangled their affair because he was blinded by dogma he could not rise above.
This vampire story is one of the first, and unique, in that the bodily harm the vampire does is minor. She took only a single drop of blood each night, similar to the garnet bead sewn on to the silken dram pillow. His withdrawal from and betrayal of her completely destroyed her bodily and their connection to each other forever.
As it also destroyed any further connection to that aspect of himself who was Clarimonde’s lover, living a privileged life in a Venetian palace filled with art, moving among the nobility with ease, pride and perfect freedom.
In the sense of physical embodiment of an idea, there is a room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taken from a Venetian palace, circa 1700. I have been fascinated by it for years. There is a feeling of melancholy luxury and humid decay about it. The ornate style is very different from any modernist ideal of less is more. I can imagine Clarimonde and Romauld in this room, having their nightly glass of perfumed wine, after an evening of Carnival parties, gliding through the canals in elaborate masks and savoring their last luxuries before the austerities to be practiced for Lent come due. The romantic legend of Venice itself is such that it still remains one of the great honeymoon destinations, a reputation built over centuries.
The dream pillow and the perfume are entirely hand made and all natural. For sample information please contact Ayala Moriel directly at her site online.
Please also visit the Clarimonde Perfume Project site, which gathers all the posts, inspirations, links and connections to the perfumes into one place. Ayala has a page of her own there, quoting and linking to all the other fragrance writers impressions.
Above photos, top: Venetian bedroom, 1700 by me. Next, the dream pillow, photo by Ayala Moriel, and the Venetian Carnival Mask from 2009 Deviant Art.
Disclosure: I received the perfume sample and dream pillow from the perfumer, and have been made very happy by all this wonderful and inventive creative outpouring for this story and this project, but otherwise have not been compensated.
Copyright 2011, Lucy Raubertas, all rights reserved.
Copyright 2011, Lucy Raubertas, all rights reserved.