It’s amazing how many different fragrance brands exist or have existed, even in the not-so-distant past. For example, this ad caught my eye when I was browsing the results of some random image search, but I’m not familiar with the name “Marta Harff.” I looked her up and learned that she’s an Argentinian entrepreneur who has run several fragrance/toiletry brands, including a namesake line of “Aguas Florales” (“flower waters”). This one is “Manzanilla.” (Chamomile?)
What really interested me in this ad (which seems to date to the 1990s) was the image it used on the bottle label and in the background…
I haven’t ever seen this fragrance in person, so I can’t tell whether it includes information about the image. This happens to be one I know well: it’s a painting by the American artist Philip Leslie Hale, titled The Crimson Rambler (ca. 1908). It belongs to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Hale was a Bostonian who traveled to study art in New York and Paris, and it was in the latter city that he gravitated towards the new style of Impressionism. Returning to the United States, he helped to popularize Impressionist art in Boston (where he was based) and Philadelphia (where he taught at the Pennsylvania Academy).
The location for The Crimson Rambler was the artist’s own house in Dedham, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston); the model was a young woman named Rose Zeffler.
Hale titled this painting after a specific breed of climbing rose. The Crimson Rambler blooms in profusion in this scene, rising to drape the porch railing and posts with its vines of heavy red flowers. The sash of the woman’s dress and the trimmings of her hat echo the color of the roses.
I have no idea how an Argentinian perfume brand decided to use this American painting for its packaging. I don’t even see a floral connection, since this isn’t a rose perfume! No matter…I’m happy to have a chance to share this work from one of my favorite museums.