The “top noses” of France have declared that “The Winged Victory of Samothrace,” a marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike, smells of white tuberose flowers mixed with woody myrrh. Thomas Gainsborough’s “Conversation in a Park”? Why, it’s the olfactory experience of freshly bloomed rose petals. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ “The Bather,” meanwhile, includes notes of lavender, orange blossoms and neroli oil.
A new collaboration between the Louvre and local perfume experts Ramdane Touhami and Victoire de Taillac finds eight artworks housed at the museum translated into unique fragrances. As Kate Brown reports for artnet News, the Parisian institution recruited the pair—co-founders of popular beauty brand Officine Universelle Buly—to develop scents associated with various paintings and sculptures.
Touhami and de Taillac, in turn, reached out to eight French perfumers who they tasked with selecting a work from the Louvre’s vast collection and transforming it into a perfume. According to Brown, the eight scent specialists—identified by Le Figaro’s Emilie Veyretout as Daniela Andrier, Aliénor Massenet, Annick Menardo, Sidonie Lancesseur, Jean-Christophe Hérault, Domitille Michalon Bertier, Delphine Lebeau and Dorothée Piot—ultimately opted for the three aforementioned paintings and sculptures, as well as “Venus de Milo,” Ingres’ “La Grande Odalisque,” Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Bolt,” Georges de La Tour’s “Joseph the Carpenter” and Lorenzo Bartolini’s “Nymph With Scorpion.”
“It is about adding an olfactory dimension to a visual experience,” Touhami says to Agence France-Presse. “I chose eight parfumeurs, all stars and gave them 100-percent freedom, with no limit on their budgets.”
The fragrances of the paintings and sculptures selected will debut in a pop-up shop near the Louvre on July 3. The choices speaks to the diversity of the cultural institution’s holdings. Some, such as “Venus de Milo,” “The Winged Victory of Samothrace” and “La Grande Odalisque,” are among the museum’s most-trafficked attractions, while others, like the Gainsborough work, are lesser-known.
Daniela Andrier, the perfumer behind Ingres’ sensual bath scene, tells Le Figaro’s Veyretout that she thinks the painting evinces an array of scents, from the sitter’s just-washed skin to the linen on which she is sitting and the flowing bath water. Drawn in by these details, Andrier immediately conjured up a fragrance featuring orange blossom, neroli and lavender.
“I see perfumers as translators, able to turn a color, a light or a texture into a note,” she says, per a translation by artnet News’ Brown. “Thus the green velvet curtain, on the left, evoked to me the absolute of lavender, rich and dark.”
Dorothée Piot, meanwhile, decided to work with Gainsborough’s 1745 painting. Speaking with AFP, she explains, she wanted to create something “fresh and delicate.” She continues, “I loved the candour and the grace of the two of them, so I came up with a perfume inspired by roses that have just come out surrounded by greenery.”
The most controversial inclusion in the roundup, the AFP reports, is sure to be “The Bolt”; contemporary critics have said the 1777 scene, which depicts a young man locking the door to a bedroom as a woman either clings to him passionately or pushes him away in protest, offers a hazy depiction of consent.
The eight art-inspired scents will be on sale at the pop-up until January 2020. But if you’re hoping that the museum’s most storied work of art will eventually be re-imagined as perfume, you’re out of luck: As Touhami tells Veyretout, “Why not the ‘Mona Lisa’? Too easy.”