Created by : Christopher Sheldrake
Date : 2000
Genre : Jasmine soliflore
Concentration : Eau de parfum
“This is not perfume,” I said to a friend about À La Nuit. It was an off-handed comment made for effect but as I said those words I had a flashback to 1979… way back to a lecture on Modern Art and Concepts by the late Professor W. Judkins at McGill University. Professor Judkins was a Harvard-trained art historian who had taught at Harvard and Radcliffe and who almost single-handedly started up the Art History Department at the University.
“Next slide please,” Professor Judkins said with a gravelly voice to his assistant in the projection room. A Canaletto painting of Venice flashed up on the screen. I leaned over to whisper to a classmate, “So beautiful… this is great art.”
“THIS IS NOT ART,” Professor Judkins emphasized word by word. “It’s nothing but a lovely postcard meant to be purchased by the rich during their Grand Tour of Europe. Where is the interpretation? Where is the abstraction? The art part of painting lies in its abstraction.” I was horrified. But more than 30 years later while testing À La Nuit, I understood what he was saying.
À La Nuit is a soliflore which means it attempts to reproduce the scent of one flower… jasmine, in this case. It doesn’t develop much over time and, in that sense, it is not unlike an essential oil. It smells flat and uninspired but for what it’s meant to do, it does it well. If you absolutely love the smell of jasmine and you don’t want to go to a headshop to pick up some jasmine essential oil (at a fraction of the cost), well then you’ll love it. I’m not a fan because I prefer my perfumes to be more complex and to evolve over time. All this reminds me of Edmond Roudnitska and what he did with Diorissimo. He did not give us a straight up lily of the valley. He interpreted and embellished it. And that is why Diorissimo is infinitely more interesting than say, Yardley’s Lily of the Valley. But for those on a limited budget who like the smell of muguet… well, the latter is still pretty good.
So if À La Nuit is so boring why is it part of my collection? I wanted it as a reference scent to calibrate my nose when I’m looking for jasmine notes in other perfumes… but I’ll never wear it.
And so my flippant comment was exactly that… not very well thought out and a little unfair. Of course À La Nuit is a perfume. But, is it art? I don’t know. Probably not.
By the way, if anyone out there has any Canaletto “postcards” cluttering up your walls, please feel free to send them my way. I’ll gladly pay for the shipping.
Have a nice week everyone!
Image : The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute (1730) by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto)