On a flying visit to Paris to interview perfumer Francis Kurkdjian for our next edition of The Scented Letter, Francis urged us to head off to a quite extraordinary exhibition at Le Grand Palais – and should you find yourself in Paris this week, there’s still time (just) to check it our for yourself.
There’s a reason Francis wanted us to see – or rather smell – this quite astonishing show, which curates the work of an unbelievably prolific female artist, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun – who really deserves (if you ask us) to be up there with the greats. Le Brun painted successive generations of French aristocrats – and somehow kept her head while all around her were (literally) losing theirs.
This portrait, above, of her patron Marie-Antoinette caused a scandal, at the time: the French were outraged to see their queen dressed in what appeared to be a simple undergarment. So Vigée Le Brun repainted Marie-Antoinette in the same pose, clutching the same rose – more of which in a mo – but more regally attired. (See it below.)
Always passionate about his collaborations with artists and museums, Francis has ‘scented’ two giant mirrors which flank the entrance to Le Grand Palais. From behind the gilded roses which climb the 10 metre mirrors a beautiful rose scent emerges – a subtle twist on his À la rose fragrance (launched 2015, which you can read about here). Although as Francis explains: ‘When I create a fragrance for an “ambience”, it’s different: the fragrance must be present in its entirety from the word “go” – unlike a scent for the body, which can develop over time. The top notes, heart and base must all be there immediately.’
Your nose can certainly make out the roses on the way into the exhibition – but the experience is magnified when you leave, stepping out from a stuffy museum into what smells exactly like a rose bower, overlooking the Place de la Concorde…
And if you get the chance to dazzle your senses with this once-in-a-lifetime show, we have just three words to say: ‘Allez, allez, allez!’ Because it closes on Sunday 11th January…