The Black Knight by Francesca Bianchi greets you with the power of a fully equipped, light, and swift battle horse in a full gallop through a fresh and green field of vetiver: its muscles are moving in a tense way, hoofs picking up and throwing pieces of dry earth in the air behind it.
And yet, there is hidden tenderness and fragility that makes him feel – so human.
My review of The Black Knight perfume was first published in Cafleurebon, and this is the version I edited in 2021.
November 25th Anno Domini 1526, Governolo, province of Mantua, Lombardy, Italy
The late afternoon air is damp and chilly, colored gray, gloomy with snowflakes swirling in cold November wind blowing above moist, cold, and barren earth. Scattered bushes of wet grass are scarred by imprints of horseshoes and footprints of armored men facing each other across the white field, prepared to engage in an inevitable battle before them.
It’s the hour marked by silence of men and rattling of weapons, horses neighs, snorts and roars, their ears stiff and prickled forwards. Wind gusts carry bits and pieces of scents, traces of life – distant smoke of recently extinguished campfires and much nearer, of leather tacks and saddles.
This is the eve of the battle predestined to be lost, the hour near which the fates had prescribed as the last time a sword was unsheathed by one of the most skilled generals of his time – born as Lodovico de’Medici, son of Caterina Sforza and Giovanni (Popolano) de’Medici, husband of Maria Salvati (daughter of Lucrezia de’Medici), father of Cosimo de’Medici, known as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere – John of the Black Bands. The Black Knight.
A nobleman of turbulent history, whose virtues were a part of his nature and his vices the fault of his youth, praised for the grandeur of his thoughts and the fierceness of his valor, a beloved captain who shared everything with his army, even to his cloak: his aim was everlasting fame, not profit or political glory.
This very battle marked the dawn of the Age of Chivalry: a single stray artillery ball fired from falconet inflicted a wound that caused Giovanni’s painful death five days later in Mantua at the age of 28. Guns? He never expected them, he knew not how to fight them. It was an end of an era and to some scholars the end of the Italian Renaissance, and the end of the Black Knight.
On 13th September Anno Domini 2019, Francesca Bianchi presented two new perfumes during Pitti Fragranze: Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight and Lost in Heaven. The inspiration behind The Black Knight is the life and death of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, as portrayed in the Italian film The Profession of Arms/Il Mestiere delle armi (2001).
Francesca told me that the images and story of the last five days in the life of this spartan, committed, wild and yet so human character impressed her so much, and that I have to watch it – which I did.
Once again, as with Etruscan Water, Francesca dives into places and characters marking the rich history of Tuscany.
If you are familiar with her Classic Collection, The Black Knight could easily be placed somewhere between my beloved The Lover’s Tale and Francesca Bianchi’s The Dark Side.
Certain stages of this fragrance might seem like familiar pieces of a puzzle already used in these two perfumes, with distinctive Bianchi accords, but the composition, rhythm, and structure are paced differently, thus rendering a completely new creation.
The story about Giovanni – The Black Knight is important in order to better understand the mood of this creation: it’s serene and meditative, dark, medieval, and gothic, yet there’s a strong pulse of life and passion beating deep inside of it.
Wearing it reminded me of Mantua after sundown: this time I didn’t have to undertake a journey to the spot, I got it already covered. In the past three years, I have stopped often in Mantua to rest there on route to other destinations, always returning to its ancient cobble paved squares shining softly in dimmed street lights, a little bit out of regular touristic routes, sleepy and dreamy in its quiet nights with remarkable inner courts and wide gardens inside the Ducal Palace, where Giovanni was a dear guest.
Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight greets you with the power of a fully equipped, light, and swift battle horse in a full gallop through a fresh and green field of vetiver: its muscles are moving in a tense way, hoofs picking up and throwing pieces of dry earth in the air behind it.
As the rider slows down into a moderate trot, you can feel the warm breath of the animal. It’s gentle and calming though, mixing with the scent of almost bitter, sweaty brown saddle leather and smoky remains of a campfire somewhere in the distance. Beneath every armor, there’s its opposite: sensitivity, just as every strength hides in its folds the other side of a coin – a weakness.
Soft light of tenderness shines through a crack in the armor of the dark, protective Knight – roses wrapped up in powdery, silky layers of orris soft as your lover’s skin emerge as the secret mistress, noble Camilla de’Rossi, caresses The Black Knights skin, disarming him with her thin, hungry fingers, applying this buttery, seductive accord in slow and deliberate movement.
Her lips taste like honey, and braided hair smells of sweet, delicate patchouli. Scents of passion are replacing scents of war, rare and precious moments of naked humanness.
De Profundis, out of the depths resinous dry-down notes and accords rise slowly, progressing with smoke, styrax-tainted leather, and soft layers of moss in the background covered with mineral, almost medicinal smelling dust of centuries gone by in the final phase. When colder weather rolls in the Northern Hemisphere, when it may be hard to face whatever is happening in your life or you just need a strong, protective force around you – spray Francesca Bianchi’s The Black Knight on your skin, let it be your fragrant armor, allowing you to connect with yourself deeper and regain your authentic strengths, never forgetting the power – of love.
Francesca Bianchi’s The Black Knight, 30 ml Extrait du Parfum is available on her website.
Notes: Artemisia, Caraway, Honey, Bulgarian Rose, Narcissus, Iris Butter, Beeswax, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Patchouli, Oakmoss, Leather accord.
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, Freeart, Uffici Galery Florence, Il Mestiere delle armi, movie/detail, Pexels.
Disclosure: I received a sample of Francesca Bianchi The Black Knight at Pitti Fragranze, 2019, opinions are of my own.