The Perfume Seller

June 10, 2021

“Sweet roses do not so; Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made.”

 An ode to moral beauty, loyalty and fidelity, the 54th sonnet in Shakespeare’s collection of 154 poems, explores the fragrant smell of the rose and likens its scent to the morality and truthfulness of a friend.

“How much more”, he asks, “doth beauty beauteous seem by that sweet ornament which truth doth give. The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem, For that sweet odour which doth in it live.”

The Rose’s scarcity, shapeliness and scent has made it an apt ingredient in many perfumes. Mimicking the ephemerality and fleeting nature of the rose, perfume embodies the ambience of life because its contours and edges, similar to the rose, are transitory.  But unlike the rose, perfume is formless. In that the articulations of its signs are weightless, and invisible in both time and space.

“The likeness of a righteous friend and an evil friend, is the likeness of a (musk) perfume seller and a blacksmith. As for the perfume seller, he may either bestow something on you, or you may purchase something from him, or you may benefit from his sweet smell.”

Bukhari

Perfumers in training, build their olfactory muscles to identify and recognize the different nuances in fragrances. When you smell Chanel’s provocative no5, or the peppery Opium by Yves Saint Laurent, the delicate interaction between notes and essences inform the sensory experiences of a fragrance. Thus, a good perfumer has trained their nose to observe the relationship between top, middle and base notes. Moreover, they are also privy to how the perfume will blend into each person’s skin chemistry when it develops fully. Like, a friend that gives advice, they know what will work with you because they know you. That is partly why, the most thoughtful gift is fragrance, because if you are able to choose the right scent for a friend, this means that you know them well. The very act of gifting fragrance carries a symbolic scent that binds people to each other, and its association with love, femininity and purity reminds us of what we desire rather than what we know.

“You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet.”

Diane Vreeland

Because fragrance is not trapped by form, it has the ability to tap into our most personal intrinsic needs, some of which we are unaware of. “All the senses have their own descriptive vocabularies, e.g. for sight, there is red, green, and yellow, and for taste there is sweet and sour, etc. But the sense of smell can have no descriptive vocabulary of its own. Rather, we borrow our adjectives from the other senses.” Our inability to taxonomize our olfactory experiences, illustrates that perfume works in complex ways within our inner world and evokes distant places, dreams, eras and landscapes , which radically change our reception of the present.  Like perfume, the most potent effects of companionship, can only be experienced in situ. In that, rather than being something that is definite in form, righteous friendship relies on its ambient qualities to eradicate space and distance, and instead creates a sense of being in something. Like the perfume seller’s shop, the scent of righteous friendship inculcates everyone that comes in close proximity, and whose scope of influence is limitless and not visibly identifiable as it lingers from one person to the next. Much like friendship, the goal of perfume is to create a sweep of encounters that leave lasting impressions on how others see themselves vis-a vis the world. The perfume seller is rarely lacking in knowledge of how to restore the respectability of those he encounters. Like a close companion, the perfume seller knows the profusion and breadth of the essences he works intimately with. He knows what excites, and also what bothers the olfactory denoueme.  With his expertise, he gracefully handles the complementary but intense nature of polarizing scents and works to pay tribute to each note by balancing them all out. Much like a friend, the perfume seller skillfully reinvents the perception of beauty and invites people to co create in an experience that relies on good taste, intuition, and a deep regard for the One above the Throne.

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 10 Jan. 2014. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/54.html

Sahih Bukhari Book 35 Hadith 54

Vreeland Diane. Quote Fancy. https://quotefancy.com/quote/1456372/Diana-Vreeland-You-re-not-supposed-to-give-people-what-they-want-you-re-supposed-to-give

Jasper, Adam, Otero-Pailos Jorge.”Olfaction and Preservation (Future Anterior)” ArtHist,2016 https://arthist.net/archive/10706/lang=en_US

 


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