23 April 2011

Perfumed Pre-Raphaelites

Scent is a topic that I find fascinating, and I’m especially interested in the connection between fragrance and memory.  I’ll never forget stumbling across Flora Danica perfume in the 1980’s, and feeling a rush of memory flow through me upon realizing that it smelled exactly like something from my Great-Aunt Virgie’s dresser.  And I lovingly recall the smell of sun-warmed wood and dust in the upper floors of an antique store instantly transporting me back in time to my great-grandparents’ house.   For many of us, the ritual of applying scent, whether a single signature scent or daily whim, completes a mood, look or style, or perhaps all three.
Flora Danica
Internet shopping has opened up a world of fragrance to those who like to experiment, and there are a plethora of perfumes that might appeal to a PRB-lover.  The first company that comes to mind when I think Stunner Style is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, or BPAL.  BPAL offers a dizzying array of hand-blended perfume oils, many inspired by art, poetry and literature.  BPAL even has a “Salon” line of fragrances inspired directly by paintings, which includes Rossetti’s “Monna Vanna.”  This perfume oil includes notes of Russian rose, mimosa, gardenia, bois du rose, parma violet, calla lily, red currant, ambergris, and bourbon vanilla.

I have to admit, I was thrilled that that scent worked for me, and it has become one of my very favorite BPAL perfumes, along with the now-discontinued “Silence,” inspired by the Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer painting.  Other BPAL categories include perfume oils inspired by such familiar characters as La Belle Dame Sans Merci, The Lady of Shallot, Morgause, and Ophelia.
 "Monna Vanna" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lucky Scent, Aedes de Venustus and the Perfumed Court are great sources for hard-to-find and niche perfumes, and all offer samples for purchase so that you may try before you buy a full-sized perfume.  I recently obtained a sample of "Ophelia" by Heeley from Lucky Scent, and fell in love with its delicate beauty.  Designer James Heeley is directly inspired by nature, and “Ophelia” contains notes of Italian orange, green flower stems, jasmine, ylang ylang, tuberose, moss, and white musk. 

"Ophelia" by John Everett Millais

People and places of history and legend seem to inspire perfumers as much as they inspired the PRB.  Cathusia conjures the mythical siren with its Ligea "La Sirena," a blend of opoponax and mandarin.

  "Ligeia Siren" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Diptyque offers the evocative creation "L'eau des Hesperides", combining bitter orange from the Ivory Coast, Italian mandarin and lemon, red thyme, African rosemary, crinkle-leafed spearmint, peppermint, immortelle flower, georgy wood, and white musks.

"Garden of the Hesperides" by Edward Burne-Jones
The Victorian attraction to Italy and Ruskin’s love affair with the stones of Venice are recalled in glass blower Montgomery Taylor’s “Ambra di Venezia,” a fragrance based on French narcissus and jasmine, with the additions of mango, mandarin orange and lime.  The bottle is even decorated with lovely Venetian architecture.

Do you have any favorite fragrances that you feel embody stunner style?  I would love to hear about them.


  1. What a wonderful post and I'm sure doing the "research" for this one was all kinds of delightful. I think one of our first online encounters was sharing our love of Flora Danica - oh, how I wish I still had that delicate glass-stoppered bottle!

    This may be a stretch - but I wonder if people sharing the same zodiac signs are attracted to like notes in perfumes? We seem to often like the same - just fruit (or flowers) for future thought.

    You've inspired me to watch the movie Perfume again.

  2. yes! I was so excited when I found out you loved it, too :-) Wish I had some now!
    That would be a very interesting zodical study on scent. I need to watch that movie again, too. Love it.

  3. I just found your blog and I am so excited because it is wonderful!

  4. Wow, thank you so much Zoe! So glad you enjoy the blog, and am happy to have you here :-D