The Art of Perfume Advertising: Elizabeth Arden My Love (with Jean Cocteau)

Fragrance aficionados don’t pay much attention to Elizabeth Arden’s fragrance line these days, and I can’t really blame them (us)—the brand’s perfumes, and even their marketing, aren’t too memorable…

Looking at vintage perfume advertisements, however, I often experience moments of surprise and delight. For example, who knew that Arden used to offer a perfume called My Love, packaged in an inkwell-shaped bottle, and that Jean Cocteau had created a print ad for this fragrance?

Look at that bottle! Perfect for the literary perfume-lover. My Love seems to have been launched circa 1949 and it was a floral fragrance. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate any specific information about its notes. (Drop me a line if you know more about this scent!)

arden cocteau my love 1959

At least we still have this magical advertisement illustrated by Cocteau, the legendary writer, film-maker, and artist. The swooning, androgynous face is drawn with simple, fluid lines, and the My Love bottle hovers in the sky like a celestial body. The image is signed by Cocteau with his name and his signature star.

Here’s another late-’50s drawing by Cocteau, a profile of Orpheus, the mythical poet-musician whose story inspired Cocteau throughout his career.


And here’s Cocteau himself, posing with another line drawing (in chalk?) of Orpheus in profile with his harp, which was used in his 1960 film Testament of Orpheus. (If you’d like to learn a little more about Cocteau, here’s a profile at Full disclosure: I’m the author.)

It’s hard to imagine a time when a mass-market cosmetics brand like Arden would hire an avant-garde artist (although, yes, he was already well-established by the 1950s) to illustrate a holiday campaign for one of its perfumes. Jean Cocteau for Elizabeth Arden. What do we have now? Julia Roberts posing for Lancôme. Alas.

Images: Elizabeth Arden My Love advertisements via H-Prints (top) and Vintage Ad Browser (bottom). Bottle photo borrowed from the blog Dividing Vintage Moments, which seems to have found it on eBay. Cocteau with Orpheus drawing via Faded Video Labels.

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