[/center] Have you ever partied with a nose? Well neither had I until the opening of L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR PARIS’ new store on Madison Avenue, which I can only describe as enticingly intoxicating. I’m sure the glass of bubbly I downed had a teensy bit to do with it, but not that much. ‘Cause the heavenly smells wafting down the Mad Ave spoke for themselves. So what is this nose-man of which I speak…some wacky foray inside a Tolstory short story? Nein, nothing that zany. Simply the chance to interview one of the perfume industry’s most famous noses, Bertrand Duchaufour, while sniffing some of his luxe concoctions. To begin with, I never knew there was a ‘nose’ profession, sorry, it’s just news to me. And secondly, I’d never thought of a scent as telling a story or recalling a memory. And so I was really delighted to realize just how artistic and narrative the creation of world-class aromas actually is. Bertrand’s nose is legend: the instant he inhales a smell he is able to break it down into its component parts and categorically store the formula in the sniffer part of his brain for future use. Quite impressive. He tells me how the just-launched Timbuktu fragrance elicits his recent visit to Mali. Again, impressed.
I dropped by the store after the revelers had long departed to grant my (average) nose the gift of whiffing L’Artisan’s full array of scents. Sales associate, Allison Winston, happily guided me through my premiere perfume flight, explaining the constituent parts of each fragrance, and some of the stories behind them. My absolute fav brew of the bunch is Machant Loup, which Allison described as inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, and which I now refer to as the Big Bad Wolf scent (rrrrfffff!).
[/center] It’s not as narcissistic as you may think to say that I absolutely lurve the L’Eau D’Ambre scent. Please allow me to ‘splain. I had this wonderful boyfriend many years ago who was always doused in amber oil. The first time we met, I sniffed him and proclaimed ‘Amber.’ And his perfect response, “nobody’s ever known that before… you’re a keeper,” just melted my little heart. Now every time I smell that heavenly scent, I’m instantly reminded of Phily. So my point with this wandering and vaguely romantic antidote? That smell is indeed the most powerful of senses, strong enough to evoke the memory of good times past at the drop of a droplet.
The store also stocks many lovely handmade bits and bobbles just begging to be touched and explored, an ummy-yummy line of scented candles, and their Amber balls (hey, it’s not my fault if I smell awesome). Many of the lovely perfumes at L’Artisan are also produced in an extreme version, more bold and full-bodied. I mean hey, if you can have Doritos Extreme (shout out to Harold and Kumar) and NFL Xtreme (yah, we all know how that turned out), then why not extreme scents? How about extremely alluring, extremely exhilarating and extremely beautiful? Me thinks so. So drop on by L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris, bury your nose in a garden of heavenly scents and give it a much-needed holiday from the i’d-rather-not-know-what-that-was smells of the grimy city.[b]L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris[/b] 1100 Madison Avenue
[center] [b]THE ORIGINAL DOCTOR OF SPIN[/b] By Lauren Baccus
[/center] Okay, tell me this… how appropriate is it that as France prepared for battle with Italy on the soccer field, the DAHESH MUSEUM OF ART dedicated its current exhibition to one of France’s most notorious citizens… you know who… and his military campaign into Egypt. Oh that silly ‘ole Napoleon – he may not have been much of a football player, but he sure knew how to hype his own legend. In fact, despite the failure of his expedition, Napoleon returned to France a victorious conqueror, spinning more tall tales than Suri Holmes-Cruise’s (if she does in fact exist) PR rep. And I’ll say this, high school history certainly would have been a ton more bearable had we gotten the real scoop on this Napoleon character. I for one would have bolted to sign up for Historical Spin-Doctors 101, or to write an essay entitled, Josephine Bonaparte: Gold-digging Hussie or Misunderstood Feminist, now wouldn’t you?
[/center] In spite of the fact that the Dahesh cleverly avoids such sensationalist themes (and awkwardly interesting questions), the exhibition is amazingly compelling. Now hang on just a sec before you groan and pick up that copy of Us Weekly, and hear me out. The collection of drawings, hieroglyphics and hand-written letters from little man Napoleon himself are quite impressive. But the juicy insights into his quest for Egypt can only be called awesome, as I catch myself tittering (yes, tittering) at an English cartoon poking fun at some of his most spectacular defeats. The Museum is also running the doc, “Napoleon’s Obsession: Quest for Egypt,” written and hosted by renowned Egyptologist (and diehard Napoleon groupie), Professor Bob Brier, which further fleshes out the historical chronicle from a real life perspective. Total conquest proved illusive for Napoleon, who may have gotten off on the wrong foot by sending his men into the baking Egyptian desert in wool uniforms and no water bottles…. in July. Uh yah, he was clever like that. This is the same military genius that sent his men into the Russian winter in summer gear. Hey, some people just aren’t fashion-oriented; give the guy a break and pick on someone your own size!
Despite all his faults and fears, Napoleon was doubtless an inspirational leader. His foray into Egypt sparked not only the modern discipline of Egyptology, but set in motion the deciphering of hieroglyphics, and the “Egyptomania” and “Orientalism” movements in western fine and decorative arts for two centuries. Death, infidelity, and as Cosmo Kramer infamously declared, “unbridled enthusiasm,” are all subplots in Napoleon’s truly fascinating saga. So grab a latte, take a crunchy bite of a creamy Napoleon (uhg, my fav) and swing on by the Dahesh Gallery to catch talks and family programs, which round out this well-executed Napoleonic exhibition running through December 31st.[b]Dahesh Museum[/b] www.daheshmuseum.org
580 Madison Avenue
(btw 56th and 57th Streets)