„Painting is the most beautiful of lies“ – Kees Van Dongen
If painting is the most beautiful of arts and if a fine perfume is a work of art, then…?
If the perfume is a work of art…then…Opardu by Puredistance.
I do think that in numerous cases it definitely is, although the idea of defining art is still being discussed: there is no single definition of art that’s universally tenable. The definitions of art are still under constant challenge, always were. I support the thesis that art has more to do with intellectual responses. A lie? Rather: an illusion. Distorted echo of the actual. We do need illusions, after all. Sometimes the actual is too painful, too harsh, too destructive. Art does have the power to take us to a higher level of being, the power of – love. So does perfume…
Here I am, wearing Opardu by Puredistance (again, and enjoying it…), musing about art, truth, beauty, and love. Things perfume can make me think about! Providing not only olfactory but intellectual pleasure a well. An ode to Springtime! This feels so appropriate now, as Spring has already given its best, moving majestically towards its grand finale when rose flowers shed their darkened petals and pave the way for Summer to enter. A perfect floral illusion of opulent Spring as the most glamorous moment of Nature.
Opardu is a „painting“ made by perfumer Annie Buzantin from New York. It all started when Jan Ewoud Vos of Puredistance, in his quest for a new perfume, showed her an illustration for the book „Parfums“ by Paul Valery to illustrate a word he made up – Opardu. A opulent and lush bouquet of flowers, drawn by Dutch-French painter Kees Van Dongen. It is a Fauvistic illustration, with vibrant colors and strong strokes, pure energy in motion, emotions and passion visibly expressed.
Kees Van Dongen is famous for his paintings of flowers, but he also painted portraits of prostitutes first and later on graduated to painting society ladies: elongating their bodies, making them look a bit dangerous. Often nude. Somewhat feline. He did not paint what he saw: his compositions reflect what he felt (He did challenge some social norms at his time! What an interesting read this was!).
These women are femme fatales, yet somehow living in the world of their own: modern in their sensuality, touched by decadence, beautiful in their self-confident glamour. Recalling dreams yet strongly living reality. Timeless. Yet, there is something in their eyes. Van Dongen painted their almond-shaped huge eyes overly made up, dark, and mysterious.
Now that we know the story behind the creation of Opardu, let’s see the mis-en-scene: Puredistance places it in Paris, 1930-ties: „..romantic memories of vintage Paris…“.
Well, I can try really hard to relate to Paris in ’30-ties but I will tell you where Opardu took me and how I experienced it!
At first, as I sprayed it gently on, all I could think of is purple lilacs, lilacs everywhere. Me as a kid, lying on the grass underneath a big lilac tree in my grandmothers’ backyard – before she calls me to have lunch, imagining that one day I would have a bed of purple lilacs made just for me.
I was not allowed to climb that tree, which was forbidden: my grandma knew that the branches are hollow. She would reluctantly break off a few, to keep lilacs in a vase just for me. Lilacs for me were a symbol of Spring, warmer days coming, end of the school year nearing, days becoming longer, and nights warmer. I always wished they would bloom longer!
There’s nothing childish about this perfume: as I inhaled it deeper and it started to develop on my skin, the first thing that came to my mind was – silk stockings. Black silk stockings, an elegantly dressed woman with gloves and a hat…contained elegance.
I remembered how my grandmother told me stories about fashion and what she wore when she was a young woman, before WWII. She told me that she wore silk stockings. Black or grayish silk stockings, the ones with seams behind, or „nat“ as Nana called it. Expensive ones, too, the kind you had to have them mended if you accidentally tore them. They were hold-ups, held by garters (she showed me how that worked out) at mid-calf length. Skirts were longer then, too.
She also told me that when the war had begun, there was a shortage of everything – stockings included. She had moved to the countryside in order to survive, alone with her only son, working and farming on the land of her ancestors. Her legs were tanned (which wasn’t popular at all back then), and when she needed to go to the nearby town, she insisted on wearing – stockings. Imaginary stockings. She painted the line on her sun-tanned legs, replicating a seam because a lady didn’t walk around bare legged. She also taught me how to make my own lipstick, soap, peeling cream, almond oil and shown me how to collect and use basic herbs for skincare. And a thing or two about men…
She said: „You never know what will happen, Eli. You can never know for sure, but know one thing: Nature provides everything we need and land will always feed you. You can survive, but never ever give up on being a lady.“ I was maybe seven or eight years old and little did I know that so many things she had taught me would be so practical later on in my life. I remember her eyes so well: there was always a soft glow of saudade about her, that inexplicable feeling only Portuguese understand perfectly: profound melancholy and love that remains after losing something or letting it go…Something in her eyes.
Maybe I was too overwhelmed with lilacs to feel carnations properly at first, but when I closed my eyes to escape clouds of purple – I felt white flowers emerge, forming a bouquet around lilacs, adding some sweetness. That purity of light purple tones became tainted with not so innocent tones of surrounding flowers: I feel gardenias swaying in wind, jasmine petals falling, turning this perfume into a creamy and seductive cocoon. Tuberose is present too, but what magnificent tuberose!!! Later on, I did feel carnations, just adding a tinge of spiciness in the heart. This fragrance is an opulent, refined, womanly floral. Even woody-musky at the drydown, turning it into a smoother version of the initial opening. The more I wear it, the more I fall in love with it.
The combination of eroticism, elegance, saudade, and vibrant colors is a key to understanding Opardu: it makes me think about first stolen kisses, Spring Flings of youth, careless falling in love, and fresh green grass under frail lilac trees.
Listed Notes: Tuberose Absolute, Gardenia, Bulgarian Rose, Purple Lilac, Carnation, Jasmine Absolute, Heliotrope, and Cedarwood.
Opardu is available in three different sizes: 17,5 ml, 60 ml, and 100 ml of pure Perfume Extrait (32%)
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, Puredistance brochure and materials, photos of paintings are royalty-free.