Monday, March 05, 2007

Guerlain L'Heure Bleue

(Image: Guerlain L'Heure Bleue eau de toilette (EDT), perfumeemporium.com) This is the strangest perfume I've ever loved, and right now, it's my number one favorite classic beauty. How would I describe it? It's a slightly medicinal carnation blend, spicy but paired with sweet vanillic ambery notes, not quite warm but aromatic, gingerbread-like, or "the sweet scent of a girl's skin" as they say. This bizarre 1912 masterpiece has strangely oily, weird musty notes in it. One of them is what I might call a "Mitsouko note" (Guerlain Mitsouko being its potent, Oriental-Fruity Chypre half sister who's also very musty and a little crazy, too): a "nutty" accord, although in L'Heure Bleue, the weird nuttiness is a backdrop to the spicy-cool ambery-violet-anise floral composition. I can only imagine L'Heure Bleue is in the same family of scents such as Rochas Byzance and Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu! because somehow I visualize an Egyptian cinnamony musk structure of early perfume composition in all of these (Was I there?? No, I think I'm just letting my imagination run wild). Why are these perfumes packaged in blue? There are variations of the theme that are packaged in blue or purple hues such as Ultraviolet, Ghost and Boucheron, and maybe even Poison.

I've been trying to figure out the term "blonde perfume"; L'Heure Bleue is known as one (or used to be known as, anyway). Maybe the color blue has some mystical meaning. The Greeks and Romans of the Classical era seem to have bonded over occult studies. Their traditions stem back to India and apparently Egypt (a shared culture seems to have existed in Cyprus where the Chypre perfume was born), not to mention their myths were pretty much the same with different archetypal names. Many of these archetypes, such as Aphrodite/Venus, were depicted as being blonde. Could this be the perfume for the goddess of love and beauty?

Why blonde? I can't say for sure but prior to the fall of the Roman Empire, the Romans had warred with and conquered many powerful Germanic tribes and their women (blonde), leading to a blonde fascination which made their women also want to dye their hair blonde--fast forward a couple of centuries--somehow, over time, blue, perceived as a soft color, became associated with those foreign blondes and women in general, while red, perceived as the stronger color, was associated with men (or brunette women). I can imagine ambery powdery soft perfumes being designated as "blue" for wispy, angelic-featured (seen as young?) women and strong, woody-mossy Chypre being designated as "red" for stronger-colored (matronly?) women (dualist mind: one or the other, 0-1). Boys wore pink and girls wore blue until the 1940s, so I think I can sort of see how L'Heure Bleue and others like it came to be known as "blonde perfume". Fast forward just a few batting of the lashes shy of a century--Catherine Deneuve the former French Marianne is known to wear it, and not to put a damper on things but I do, too. It took a long time for me to like this and I'm still getting used to the darker parfum form, but I'm glad I have it and to have had the chance to smell it before it's discontinued (if it hasn't been already). I think it's beautiful and don't want to see it go.

One last thought I will add is that I will bet those caps are made in the image of serpent heads! >;-o

(Image: L'Heure Bleue 1927 ad in which the paleness of the woman is purposely juxtaposed against the darkness of the supporting role in the image to bring home the message of the "blonde perfume")