jeudi 28 août 2014

Coco Noir Extrait de Parfum by Chanel: Through a Venetian Glass Darkly


“Why does everything I do turn byzantine?” Chanel asked… 

It is this bent for Byzantium, as reflected in the Venetian mirror, which supplied the concept for Coco Noir (just as the orientalist décor of her rue Cambon apartment inspired Coco).

The 2012 eau de parfum, though loaded with enough patchouli to earn its “noir” label, conjured a LBD rather than the brocades of a dogaressa. The new extrait de parfum, however, might prove much more compelling to fragrance aficionados.

Coco Noir Parfum pries open the fruitchouli structure of the eau de parfum to cut the flowers loose. May rose and jasmine give it a velvety, vintage-y heft, but the true delight comes from a somewhat less glamorous player. 

Like the humble jersey Coco turned into couture, rose geranium, grown in Mul’s fields in Grasse alongside Chanel’s reserved crops of rose, jasmine, tuberose and iris, is given a star treatment in the fragrance. It is its rosy-minty freshness, glazing the velvet balsam and wood brocade, which gives Coco Noir Parfum the cool sheen of a black mirror.

 The black mirror simile came to me before I knew black mirrors were a thing, and that they were used for scrying, which I didn’t know was a word (crystal balls are more often used than the former to perform the latter). Now, though an interest in the occult isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of the thoroughly modernist Chanel, she did have an interest in it – as did her Surrealist friends --, aroused by Boy Capel, the great love of her life. She first came to Venice, a city rife with masonic and alchemical symbols, after his death – the very death that compelled her to create N°5, according to Jean-Louis Froment, the curator of the N°5Culture Chanel exhibition. So that we might not be straying that far from Coco’s spirit when we conjure a few ghosts with Coco Noir Parfum’s black mirror…

And what is that specter? Chypre. Or rather, that part of chypre that runs from fruit to wood – tilt the Coco Noir Parfum axis a bit on the scent-map, and you come across an offshoot of Femme, Féminité du Bois (the original Coco’s spice-laden orientalism being the bridge between the two). Both co-authored by Christopher Sheldrake, the two scents aren’t similar, but there’s a similar balance in their fruit-wood-musk structure. So that when you nose-squint in that direction, Coco Noir suddenly becomes much more Byzantine… All you need is a bit of black magic.

Illustration: Detail from Tintoretto's Susanna and the Elders, c. 1555

11 commentaires:

  1. Must smell this - I seem to have ignored it, thinking it wouldn't match up to the noir part of its name, but you make it very appealing indee.! You've put me in a Halloween mood two months early, but there's nothing wrong in that!
    Jillie

    RépondreSupprimer
    Réponses
    1. Frankly, the parfum version is much more compelling that the eau de parfum... and given the cool weather we've been experiencing in Paris in August, I guess it's no wonder I'm also in more of an autumnal mood myself!

      Supprimer
  2. Je viens de decouvrir ton blog, j'adore vraiement la facon dont tu parles sur les parfums.

    RépondreSupprimer
  3. How fascinating! I found this book on the miroir de Claude, the black mirrors used by artists and tourists.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=6X1_XyiyYGsC&pg=PA5&lpg=PA20&ots=djEqflk-au&focus=viewport&dq=miroirs+noirs&output=html_text

    RépondreSupprimer
  4. Thank you for the reference, Ariane. I didn't want to go into the fact that the black mirror was also an optical instrument used by painters (the scrying metaphor served me better), but I was intrigued by it.

    RépondreSupprimer
  5. If you are in London, Denyse, pop along to British Museum to see one. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_mla/d/dr_dees_mirror.aspx
    George

    RépondreSupprimer
    Réponses
    1. Thank you George! No immediate plans to go to London, but I'll keep it in mind for the next trip -- I actually make it a point to visit the British Museum whenever I'm in town (along with the V&A and Barbican).

      Supprimer
  6. But I must say that an interest in the occult is EXACTLY the first thing I think of when thinking of Chanel, because her symbol is a version of the vesca piscis, which is an occultist's demonstration of an irrational number (the ratio of the height of the intersection of the outside of the Cs to the width of the intersection is 1: the square root of three). The number 5 is also central to occultist wisdom because its square root is necessary for any geometric representation of the golden section, and if anyone's work is about "divine [darling?] proportions" it's hers. George

    RépondreSupprimer
    Réponses
    1. I meant for most of the public -- the things you mention are only perceptible to people who have a culture of the occult... But between Boy Capel and her Surrealist friends there was certainly a lively interest in the field. In fact, the N°5 Culture Chanel exhibition showed the number 5 cropping up in several artworks of the time (I reproduced some in my posts about it: http://bit.ly/1wlS9M8 and http://bit.ly/1uAfwCi).

      Supprimer
    2. Thanks for that. I wish I could have seen that exhibition. Because your review has framed her interest in the occult as being linked to Boy Capel, it does make me rather wonder if he was a freemason. I suppose we will never know :-)

      Supprimer