24 November 2010

"A Bouquet Of Abstract Flowers"

"Paul Valery used to say: 'A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future.' Well, he was quite right." - 1966

"Women wear the perfumes they're given as presents.  You ought to wear your own, the one you like.  If I leave a jacket behind, they know it's mine." - Coco Chanel to Claude Delay, c. 1970
"When my customers come to me, they like to cross the threshold of some magic place; they feel a satisfaction that is perhaps a trace vulgar but that delights them: they are privileged characters who are incorporated into our legend.  For them this is a far greater pleasure than ordering another suit.  :legend is the consecration of fame."  - 1935

"Should you see a rooted tree/ You will always look upon yourself as being healthy/ And should there be many trees/ You goals hall soon be near." - Chanel's number five tarot card

""When did I create it (Chanel No. 5)?  In 1920, exactly; upon my return from the war.  I had been part of the campaign in a northern region of Europe, above the Arctic Circle, during the midnight sun, where the lakes and rivers exuded a perfume of extreme freshness.  I retained this note and recreated it, not without difficulty, for the first aldehydes I was able to find were unstable and unreliable.  Why this name?  Mademoiselle Chanel, who had a very fashionable couture house, asked me for some perfumes for it. " - Ernest Beaux, 1946

Coco Chanel believed in magic, as well she might, being one of its great practitioners.  Magic aside, the coutouriere  met  the perfumer  Ernest Beaux in the summer of 1920 and, delighted with the scent he offered her, called it "a bouquet of abstract flowers."  Not for Chanel the modernist, Marcel Proust's associations of scent with nostalgia. Chanel No. 5 debuted in Paris in the spring of 1921, the olfactory accessory to her modernist desings.

Ernest Beaux (1881-1961), although French,  was born in Moscow where his family were perfumers to the Tsar.   After military service on the side of the Allies during World War I, Beaux was decorated by both the British and the French.  He established his laboratory in Grasse, since the 18th century renowned as the world capitol of the perfume industry .  The flower farms of Grasse produce jasmine, a 16th century Moorish import, used in many perfumes including Chanel No. 5.  Beaux used aldehydes to fix the other ingredients in his composition: ylang-ylang, neroli, May rose, sandalwood and Bourbon vetiver.
Images:
1.  Andy Warhol - Chanel No. 5, 1965, the Andy Warhol Foundation, NYC.
2.  Georges Lepape - The Little Black Dress Goes Yellow, 1928, Conde Nast, NYC.
3.  Pierre Mourgue ( corr. 12/09/10) - Vogue cover 15 June 1928, Code Nast, NYC.
4.  Jean Pages - Vogue cover April, 1930, Conde Nast, NYC.
Youmay also be interested in French Perfume, posted here July 3, 2009.

2 comments:

John T said...

I've only recently been exploring your excellent blog - your taste overlaps mine all over the place.
Thanks for all the wonderful images.

p.s. The June 15, 1928 Vogue cover is by Pierre Mourgue, not Lepape.

Jane said...

Ouch! I'm mortified. I blew the image up to the point where I could read it - Mourgue it is. That was one poorly edited book, and to think that people criticize the internet as if it invented errors. Thank you.