I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.
Tuesday 6 December 2011
Crystalline Refraction – ‘Baiser Volé’ by Cartier: A Lily Through the Prism of Mathilde Laurent
that knows me is aware of my passion for the lily. Lilium, giglio, lirio, lilya, lilie, krinos. The singular bloom
that burns white on white in the fevered mind, Madonna and whore, shimmering in
the imagination. Like luminous Rita Hayworth forever trapped in Gilda, fleshily beautiful, luscious and
loved lilies all my life, the whiteness, their carnal murmurings, clarity and divisive
intent. I love the boudoir leanings and funereal chill, the heady indolic descent
into decay and unsettling sweet morgue atmospherics. When you read those
questionnaires about what kind of animal would you be etc. If asked about
flowers, I would be a Casablanca lily, wrapped up in the snowiest white, like the
glorious Tilda in a column of glittering icy fur.
posted previously on my love of Penhaligon’s beautifully hissy Lily & Spice with its chilly laundry
rendering of Madonna lily, smooth creamy vanilla and weird saffron slide into
pepper and addictive rooty benzoin base. I am still in love with it, layering
with L’Artisan’s boozy Vanille Absolument
(post on that in the new year…..)
lily soliflores are still rare, so I get excited by the appearance of new ones.
The combination of Mathilde Laurent, the White Witch of perfumery and the snowy
challenge of Casablanca lilies was tantalising news. I couldn’t wait to sample
it, wear it, breathe it. And the name…..Baiser
Volé….stolen kiss… conjuring up images of sleeping beauties on marble biers
or thieves in the night, hovering in darkness, just brushing the lips of
obsessional loves lost in dreams.
bottle is a nod to Cartier’s luxurious pedigree and their iconic lighters, with
an elegant flip top zippo style lid and perfect in-the-hand ergonomics. I
imagined Lauren Hutton snapping it open to light a Vogue cigarette on safari
with Peter Beard while he wonders if she will fit inside a crocodile.
Baiser Volé’s appearance took me by surprise. I was walking
through a quiet store and smelt waves of soft, apricot toned lily and vanilla.
It was just gorgeous, creamy and foamy, with bursts of light and a hazy corona.
I realized the sales assistant has just billowed the scent into the air, I
could see motes of it flickering across the lights.
clicked open softly. I was reminded of my lovely Must de Cartier bottles. Suddenly I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try
it. Would it disappoint? I was incredibly nervous. It was really odd. I shook a
little. I remembered a picture I has seen recently of Mathilde Laurent looking
magnificently spiky in her atelier, trademark hair, swept into a stunning
two-tone whip of grey and white and I thought: It will be remarkable. And I
initial impressions were of dawn breaking over a dewy garden, rays slowly
radiating in golden warm lengths towards the eye. This solar surrender: the
beginning of the lily’s portrait is very clever; a subtle scene setting
corolla. It was like waiting with a camera for hours, just for the right light
and as the liquid’s radiance floods the aperture, letting the lens burn with
this I am reminded of a documentary on the Grooved Ware People who built Skara
Brae, the haunting Neolithic site on Orkney. There were discussions on sun
worship and the importance of building burial tumulii in alignment with the
rising of the sun or in certain sites with the alignment of a chosen solstice.
This meant that the buildings had apertures of stone that allowed the light to
burn through only once a year. This sacred outpouring of momentous light played
out now as then dazzled and moved me.
not saying that perfume can humble and awe in the same way, although sometimes
my brain spins off in some very strange directions….But this image of light
flooding and the feel of something
elemental implied by the emotion provoked is how I felt as I inhaled the green,
whipped vanilla bathhouse top of Baiser
Volé. Then creamy skin and a peek of blurred flirtatiousness.
Laurent has constructed an entire flower from the stem up. A stem in water, in
a crystal vase shot through with pure morning light. The laser sharp quality of
the lily tones lifting off my skin are just lovely. The strange saline sniff of
leaves and stems mingle with a cool, succulent note that smells like desire
feels. I find an aloof eroticism in the lily, a buttoned up and held down
hunger straining to lick lips and caress skin. But to look at it the lily seems
controlled and cold, watching from a distance. To many it symbolises purity,
having been offered to Mary by the Archangel on the eve of the Conception. This
light, this glowing motif of pristine
motherhood and chasteness has swung between two worlds over time: a white world
of purity and soft safe love and a world of corrupted whorehouse carnality,
skin toned and ripe for the taking.
worlds flow over and across each other in most lily soliflores. It is the
nature of the bloom. Malle’s Lys
Méditérrannée was more transvestite nun singing Gainsbourg cover versions,
but at heart she was still a nun. Donna Karan’s Gold was rich and golden, opulent perhaps, but pure, saving herself
for the love of her life. It was a beautifully constructed scent, layers of white,
shot through with glittering strands of ormolu.
Baiser Volé is the temptation to stray, the whisper at
your neck. As the luscious top notes smooth upwards paradoxically out of the
water, rolling up to the leaves and the shoulders and clavicles of rolling
white floral petal undulation, my senses shifted again. The molecules seemed to
flow around me, atomic and super charged, shimmering with a gentle
peach-coloured sweet camphor scent. Hints of galangal, coconut and gingerbread
mixed with the deeply comforting opening hit of fabric softeners and cool green
the sensation of it on my skin, the joy of it. It made me feel alive. There is
no real drydown, just a feeling that the elements have coalesced into something
real. It is clever and beautiful fragrance work. A portrait of a sometimes
skittish and withdrawn flower. The rendering is near perfect. It is not a
floral. That would be far too easy. It is something else. Perhaps like a
Gerhard Richter painting, so real as to be near perfect, but still after all a construct.
Baiser Volé is an astonishing rendition of a Casablanca
Lily, so perfect as to be almost real. But like a Richter, you have to look
incredibly hard to see the work. The homage is dazzling in its execution and
the rendering by Laurent demands your skin and thunderous applause.