Sometimes an advertisement is all we can know of a discontinued perfume. This is the case (for me, at least) for Natural de Myrurgia, a fragrance released by the Spanish house Myrurgia in 1982.
Myrurgia is best known for its classic Maja, still available worldwide, but all I’ve been able to learn about Natural comes from a page on the Fragrantica database, which describes Natural as a floral-chypre composition of sandalwood, patchouli, musk, violet, jasmine, pink peony, bergamot, and rose. The page also includes an ad for Natural de Myrurgia. The photo is too small and too low-resolution for me to read its text, but its imagery is clear enough…
Whoever came up with the concept for this ad was clearly thinking of Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish-born artist who made her name in Paris between the World Wars. De Lempicka was best known for her portraits of glamorous men and women—especially women—whom she portrayed in a stylized, hard-edged manner influenced by Art Deco design. In the early 1930s, she produced some particularly striking depictions of women in white satin gowns (such as Ira P. and Madame M., seen above).
The painting that had the strongest impact on Myrurgia’s ad is de Lempicka’s Portrait of Mrs. Allan Bott (1930), a full-length portrayal of a lithe young woman wearing a slinky white slip-dress and T-strap shoes. The artist included a fur wrap lying near her model’s long legs and a cluster of skyscrapers rising in the background.
According to my (very basic) research, Mrs. Allan Bott was born Elaine Anita Coggeshall. She posed for photographer Arnold Genthe just a few years after she had her portrait painted by Tamara de Lempicka, and it’s easy to see how her classic, angular beauty would have appealed to both artists.
Myrurgia’s advertisement made some alterations and adjustments to de Lempicka’s portrait of Mrs. Bott, but the influence is obvious. This updated Art Deco figure is paired with a contemporary (1990s?) model dressed and styled in a similar manner, so I’m guessing that Myrurgia is making some very valid point about timeless chic.
I’ll confess that I dismissed de Lempicka’s art as high-end kitsch at one point, when I was under the sway of my graduate studies and my professors’ strict hierarchy of Serious Art. I’ve recently come to appreciate her weirdly sensual style, with all its exaggerations and its glossy-looking surfaces, and to think of it as Machine-Age Mannerism.
One reason I’m able to look at de Lempicka with fresh eyes is that I recently read Ellis Avery’s The Last Nude. This novel is an imagining of an encounter between the artist and one of her models, set within the decadent, hothouse-like environment of 1920s Parisian bohemia. I highly recommend it.
Lastly, if you’ve read this far, a plea: I’d love to know more about this Myrurgia advertisement (and the fragrance it illustrates), so if you’ve ever seen it before (and were able to read the print!), please leave a comment.
Note: The blog Grain de Musc posted a brief but interesting history of Myrurgia a few years ago; you can read it here.
Images: Myrurgia advertisement via Fragrantica; Tamara de Lempicka paintings via Tamara de Lempicka: The Complete Works; Arnold Genthe photograph via Library of Congress; The Last Nude via Ellis Avery.