Art and Scent: Perfume-Themed “Magasin de Nouveautés” Trade Card

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I came across this delightful piece of printed ephemera on the New York Public Library website. It was produced by the French lithography firm of Lithographie F. Appel and it probably dates to the 1880s. It’s a trade card from a series promoting the shops and businesses of the city of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. In this image, a perfume bottle is transforming into a woman, or vice versa—we’ve all been there, haven’t we?—while surrounded by other toiletries, a powder puff, and an artist’s palette. It’s a nonsensical image, like some kind of “Alice Through the Belle Epoque Looking-Glass,” and I love it.

Image: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. c1876-1890. Scrapbooks of colored advertising cards in English and French: volume 3.

A “Serious Acquaintance”: The Wine-Tasting Scene in “Brideshead Revisited”

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When a reporter named Greta Moran contacted me for an interview about perfume back in June, she asked how I came to be so passionate and involved in this subject. I constructed a short timeline of my fragrance obsession for her, partly just for my own entertainment. This week, as I’m preparing to take part in a panel discussion about fragrance and writing, I’m thinking again about early influences on my work.

Some of these influences, I’ve realized, have nothing to do with perfume per se but much to do with other memorable sensory experiences—or reading about sensory experiences. One example: a much-loved scene from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945)…

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Frida and Fragrance

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“I am my own muse. I am the subject I know best.”

I’m currently reading Frida Kahlo: Making Myself Up, edited by Claire Wilcox and Circe Henstrosa and published by the Victoria & Albert in 2018. It’s the companion publication for the exhibition of the same name, open at the V&A through November 4, 2018.

This exhibition includes art by Kahlo and photographs of Kahlo taken by an international roster of photographers, some of whom were personal friends of the artist.  Its main theme is Kahlo’s keen sense of self-presentation and her symbolically (and literally) layered self-fashioning, exemplified by rarely seen objects from Kahlo’s home in Mexico City—intimate possessions like clothing, accessories, jewelry, and cosmetics.

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Upcoming Class: “Show and Smell: Five Moments of Art and Fragrance”

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On Thursday, November 29, I’ll be teaching a class called “Show and Smell: Five Moments of Art and Fragrance” through the Brooklyn Brainery.

For more information, please see the Brainery website!

Image: Chen Jiayan (Chinese, 1539-1623 or later). Detail of One Hundred Flowers, dated 1629. Color on silk, 10 x 10 3/8in. (25.4 x 26.4cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the C. C. Wang Family Collection, 1997.185.18 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

“Painting with Words” Fragrance Writing Event

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Upcoming event: I’ll be participating in a panel discussion and workshop on fragrance writing, organized by The Perfumed Plume. It will take place in New York on November 7, 2018.

You can view the official invitation and a link to purchase tickets on the Perfumed Plume website. Many thanks to Lyn and Mary Ellen for inviting me to join this event!