Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Passage D'Enfer

The first time I went to L'Artisan it was Christmastime, and I was doing some last minute shopping in the wintry weather. I stepped into the boutique, and a chic saleswoman immediately came to my aid, not only giving me a detailed description of the inspiration behind the scents, but also allowing me to smell them and determine which was to my liking. The edifying experience was akin to a wine tasting, and I left feeling much better informed about top notes and base notes as well as how to precisely apply verbal descriptors to the experience of inhaling scent. I also left with an abundance of tiny vials of exquisite perfume to sample, in unique varieties such as Piment Brulant, as well as a gift for my friend that was perfectly suited to her, mysterious with a multi-layered complexity and not overly feminine as some perfumes tend to be. The perfume I had purchased for her was Passage D'Enfer. When I smelled it on the test strip I detected notes of peppercorn and a subtle muskiness reminiscent of leather bound first edition books tempered by a hint of a powdery floral that keeps the scent from being too heady or cologne-like. However, it is really the way that it smells on skin that is so profoundly intoxicating. There is an animalistic quality to the scent that literally makes men gravitate towards you in a room. Also, I love the name of this scent, as the art historian in me immediately conjures up images of Rodin's "Gates of Hell," commissioned in 1880 for the entrance to a Decorative Arts Museum. Taking a cast of characters such as The Thinker, Ugolino and His Children, and Fugitive Love, many of which were inspired by Dante's Inferno, and simultaneously deriving inspiration from Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise," the project never came to fruition but was cast post mortem and is now displayed in the Musee Rodin. The depth and brooding nature of the scent captures the spirit of Rodin's complex sculptural group. The tortured, writhing bodies of the sculptures have a feral and sensual quality that, like L'Artisan's scent, enthralls the witness with raw sinfulness and evokes the fiery depths that beckon just beyond the gates.

photo credit for image of perfume: http://www.artisanparfumeur.com

photo credit for image of "Gates of Hell": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gates_of_Hell

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