In Salvador Dalí’s case, it actually makes perfect sense. In 1983, Dalí launched his debut fragrance as a tribute to his wife and muse, Gala – still madly in love with her, after so many decades together. To Dalí, perfume was the ‘most beautiful messenger’ of memories and happy moments. This is a man, after all, who tucked a sprig of jasmine behind his ear, when painting…
The artist – born Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech – had expressed his artistic genius in so many ways. At the same time, throughout his career, every gesture and pronouncement seemed designed to shock – or at least to provoke thought.
An accomplished skilled draftsman, Dalí‘s painterly skills were believed to have been influenced by Renaissance masters. He also created sculpture, photography, film, ballet, jewellery, even furniture: who can forget his Mae West Lips sofa, based on the Hollywood star? And it could be said that with his unique appearance, he was a walking work of art. Perfume, then, was another form of artistic expression…
Before he launched his own fragrance, Dalí‘s work had been used by other brands (notably Elsa Schiaparelli, a great patron of the Surrealists). But it was an unknown perfumer called Jean Pierre Grivory who had the notion that a Salvador Dalí perfume should be launched: a work of art in itself, a limited edition – with ‘reproductions’ of that original work which the public could buy, just as they did with Dalí’s artwork. In July 1981, Jean Pierre Grivory wrote to Dalí to share his idea and to ask him to create a bottle inspired by one of his perfumes.
Jean Pierre Grivory‘s fascination with Dalí went back to his childhood: for his 10th birthday, he’d been given a scaled-down work of Dalí‘s art, his imagination excited by the light, and the ‘Dali-an’ skies.
To the perfumer’s great surprise, the answer to his proposal was ‘yes’. The painting Dalí chose was ‘Apparition of the Face of the Aphrodite of Knidos’ – because who better than the goddess of love…? (It’s the painting you can see here.) The bottle that Dalí sculpted focused on Aphrodite’s lips and her nose – a reference to the sense of smell. The two men met – at the Chateau de Pubol in Catalonia, Dalí‘s home. Dalí, so we’re told, asked not one question about Grivory’s experience or his past, but simply shared his vision for creating a bottle that would be recognisable the world over as a Dalí work of art.
And the fragrance inside? It was to be based on the jasmine flower – inextricably linked with the act of painting, for the artist – and the rose, which was Gala’s favourite flower.
Alberto Morillas – today one of the most revered Master Perfumers at Firmenich – was the man chosen for the assignment. He created three options for Dalí to choose from – and the artist was also presented with seven bottle prototypes. The bottle, crafted from crystal, was a pair of voluptuous lips – and the flacon’s cap, if you look carefully, is the shape of a perfect nose. The rich, opulent floral chypre perfume inside was as exotic as the artist himself, a masterpiece fusing bergamot, rose, jasmine, mimosa, patchouli, oak moss, frankincense, clove and musk. In 1983, it was launched in a limited edition crystal bottle. Two years later, the bottle was reproduced in glass – and became a hit in perfumeries worldwide.
Since then, Parfums Salvador Dalí has become a fragrant force to be reckoned with, its personality as vibrant, unexpected and daring as the artist himself. The bottles – inspired by one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century – are with each new launch as eye-catching as you’d expect: Le Roy Solieil, with its glass ‘sun’, or the recent Dalí Wild: a purringly sexy woody fragrance (selected for The Perfume Society‘s very first ‘Fragrance Education Discovery Box‘), featuring sculpted lips against a glamorous leopard- print backdrop. (Lips feature time and again in Dalí‘s work, embodying love and eternal passion to the artist.)
Most covetable of all are the Crystal Editions: numbered limited editions of four surrealist sculptured bottles, created according to the traditions of artisanal glass art. Exclusive, precious, rare – and worth a swoon, if you ever encounter them in a chic department store or perfumery.
Dalí‘s brilliant and bold paintings and sculptures are to be found in museums around the world. Reproductions grace the walls of millions of homes. But for perfume-lovers, perhaps the greatest legacy of this extraordinary artist – who died just short of his 85th birthday – is in liquid form, to be applied to the pulse-points and enjoyed day after day as a true expression of olfactive art.
To quote the artist: ‘Among the five senses, smell is unquestionably the one that best gives the idea of immortality.’ His fragrances are most definitely ‘immortality in a bottle’ – and a reflection of Dalí‘s belief that in all things, ‘much more than seeing, hearing and tasting, one must be able to breathe in its sacred perfume!’
Image rights of Salvador Dali reserved/Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali 2014
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