When I came across this gorgeous painting in the Louvre, many years ago, I was shocked.  Much in the way I believe Shakespeare’s contemporary audience was when they first saw the sleepwalking, murderous (at least complicit) Lady in the famous play.  I adore painting and Fusli was as yet unknown to me.  I pretty much stuck to the Italians and the Germans and well-known Dutch, etc at the time.  I adore Shakespeare and embracing the tragic romantic that is me, I tend to go back to the great tragedies most often.  Lear is of course the greatest, but I do love Macbeth.  It is the most dramatic.  What does this have to do with perfume?  I will tell you.  I see paintings like this and I immediately wonder….what do the doctor and the attendant in the background smell?  What kind of dark sillage does the Lady leave behind as she wanders the halls, oblivious to her mutterings?  Does she smell of bright, cheerful flowers to bely her foul heart?  She was after all trying desperately to appear sunny, almost flirty three acts ago. She tried to shed her humanity (she asked to be unsexed, which of course meant humanity, not womanhood)….so would she have doused herself in the softest of rose oils?  I think her sheets were heavy with sweat and tears and she, heavy with her deeds, smelled of darkness and despair….These are not Spring thoughts, but I can’t help myself.  I think Lady Macbeth’s vanity would have been filled with “pretty” scents, but she would have loathed them all.  She would have secretly longed to, “cross the aisle” as it were.  She would have doused herself in her fathers’ and brothers’ scents (I have invented a family for her).  I think her private collection would have been filled with birches and woods and other dark scents.  This is not to say that her actions were typically “masculine”.  I simply believe the character indulged a very distorted notion of what is feminine and what is masculine.  She was quite simply one twisted woman.  If I were to perfume this character, I think I would choose Lutens’ Rose de Nuit.  A dark gorgeous rosy chypre with so much red rose and so much depth, I can see Lady Macbeth’s damned spot each time I smell it.  So, whom would you love to scent and what would it be……doesn’t have to be the Bard. 

  • Sarah says:

    Continuing in the Austen thread, Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. She has long been a beloved heroine, and the more recent (2002??) movie with Frances O’Connor (although grossly inaccurate by the book) managed to stay in the spirit of things and Fanny was truly, wonderfully brought to life. I haven’t sniffed enough to have any sort of idea what she would wear, but I must believe it would transition with her character throughout the novel.

  • Latebloomer says:

    Posted with apologies for a complete lack of perfumista sophistication …
    Your post has me thinking on a few of my favorite American novels and characters …

    First, I immediately tried to imagine what Atticus Finch would wear? Maybe nothing, instead he might smell of sun-dried cotton, starched shirts, and the light perspiration that comes to all in the South. Still, maybe he might wear a men’s cologne? If he did, I don’t know which it might be, but believe it would be light, subtle, barely there. Any thoughts?

    Then, I started to try to imagine Scarlett and her fragrance — and am certain that she would wear something. I think it would be a special perfume, made for her by a nose antecedent to Alexandra Bolahoutis’. An oil of the finest essences derived from flowers of the South and without monster sillage. Scarlett opting instead for a scent that was evident when her endless suitors were leaning close-in to listen to whispered words; instead for a fragrance that was left behind on her unknowing admirer after Scarlett ‘accidentally’ brushed his face or hand while accepting a hankie proffered or rescued; instead for a perfume that lingered on the clothes of each dancing partner at a grand ball. Beautiful, fine, flowered and anchored in a musk, lingering~reminding on all who came close.

    What a wonderful question Bryan. How enjoyable revisiting favorite books, characters, paintings.

    • Latebloomer says:

      Sorry … me again. I forgot one last thought …

      Rhett????!!! I think he would have worn a rather well rounded, sophisticated male scent. I have no idea which and am instead wondering if his cologne and Scarlett’s perfume perhaps clashed ~ never able to find a calm, peaceful blending — like some scent portend of their relationship end?

      In looking back on these posts, now I am also wondering if my imaginings say more about me and my life, then they do about these favorite characters?

    • SLF says:

      Hmm…Scarlett dared to dance the Virginia Reel before her period of mourning was over (scandalous!)…and rouge herself like Belle Watling…to me, she absolutely would have gone for the sillage. “Drape me in Shalimar! Tabu! Layer gourmands under spice and cover it all with musk!”

      Unless she were on the direct prowl for Ashley, in which case she would have stolen ideas from Melanie. Hmm, Melanie is wearing that nice Anais Anais…I’ll put on Fracas….

      Rhett. Would have tried Creed during his “respectable” period, but gone back to Tom Ford or an aoud in the end.

      Love the idea of compatibility (or lack thereof) in scent as a replacement for Love Signs… 😉

      • Latebloomer says:

        How great!! I believe that your Creed and Aoud capture Rhett’s complexities well! Monster sillage for Scarlett? Private Reserve – Semaramis? Love a big, edgie gourmand for her too or what about a fragrance with a tobacco note or a leather note too? I am thinking that Melanie might wear Apres l’Ondee – beautiful and feminine, with a melancholy note too.

        • SLF says:

          That’s it! Apres for Melanie!! That would be why my mother, who has in her a Drama Queen, and I had pegged for Scarlett, thought she wanted to be Melanie!!! Melanie gets the man, gets the great scent…and then…disappears, just like the scent. But oh, how she affected the plot…

          And I like the tobacco/leather for Scarlett, who tried to hard to lace up her corset like Mammy told her, but who really wanted to use the whip on the horses and run the Emporium.

          Now, what would Belle have worn…and let’s say, what would she have worn for Rhett? Not one of those {scents for a whore–what’s the French phrase?}, but something to rival the Apres l’Ondee…

    • Bryan says:

      Please do not ever, ever apologize. I found your words gloriously romantic and I am flattered you responded to my humble post. I agree completely with your insights. I am quite sure Scarlet would have been delicately scented with something sweet and yet animalic, for the men to lean in close and catch a breeze. I think her handkerchief would have been more heavily scented so the women in her life would have been warned!
      Brava! to both you and her. 🙂

      • Latebloomer says:

        Well, thank you Bryan. I did so enjoy your post and the reference to perfume and the sense of smell as another way to access/explore one’s emotional response to art. While your post explored the less light aspects of humanity, it made me go to the light and remember beloved beautiful portraits of women in Renaissance Florence. That thread of thought led to me considering and then discarding the notion that Botticelli’s Venus would have worn anything in the moment captured in his glorious painting. Certainly, the more earthbound of Florence’s women did wear something? What do you imagine for them?

  • Musette says:


    I disagree with you on only one leetle point in this fabulous, eloquent essay. I think Spring can be very much about heaviness and despair – the dark, loamy earth struggling to regain itself after a long, frozen sleep…there’s something very poignant (and not always cheerful) about flowers in a late-spring snow, or the first lilac buds struggling to emerge… (it’s a cool, foggy day here, with lots of wet green – perfect for contemplation).

    …but that’s not what you asked. I was thinking about characters in literature today and Zola’s Nana and Austen’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs Bennet came to mind…an odd trio, I know:-?

    For Nana I think I would have her in Patou’s 1000. Joy is the more obvious scent but there’s a sharp edge to 1000 that I think would appeal to Nana.

    Lady Catherine would definitely be Joy, only because it is (was) ‘the costliest perfume in the world’and is drenched in respectability (I love it, btw). She would not have worn it well, being better suited to Bal a Versailles or Shalimar. Actually, when I think of her, all I can smell is Shalimar – but she wouldn’t have worn it – too racy for a Lady of her consequence.

    Mrs Bennet would be in a fruity floral, years too young for her but inoffensive. If she were current I see her at the perfume counter every month, buying the latest thing, a la the new Chloe.

    @};- in hopes of flowers and sunshine, soon!

    • Bryan says:

      I completely agree about the dark side of Spring. Certainly a melancholy season in its own right. I love your choices for the characters. I have been thinking a lot about 1000 lately…I think I need to find my bottle and spray away. I can just picture Mrs Bennet shopping for the pathetic crop of “girly” eaux. Now that’s sad!:d

      • Musette says:

        You know what’s odd in that? Nowhere in the book is she portrayed as wanting to be anything other than her age – in fact her whole focus, as you know, is to get her daughters married (an ‘ager’ if ever there was one:-). So I don’t think it’s because she wants to be girly – I think she’s just so damned silly that I equate the ‘silliness’ in so many newly-minted ‘girly’ fragrances to her.

        Poor Mrs Bennet. So unloved and unappreciated:(

    • SLF says:

      Oh! Characters and their perfumes! I’ve thought that this, and/or “What perfume should you wear to read _____?” would be good blog post starters.

      That said, I wonder if Clarissa Dalloway didn’t have a Myrurgia on her nightstand amongst the good British standbys…and wouldn’t there be someone in “The Age of Innocence” who would have seen Chanel as not scandalous, but oh-so-correct?

      Trying to conjure spring…not immediately hitting a spring character, but I can see all of you in the posse enjoying assigning scents to the characters in an updated “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Twelfth Night” — do they change perfumes when they cross-dress, or don’t they??? Forget Lady M and her damn spot and all her murk and skank…bring on the green skank for those fairies, the fleurs and hay, even some ocean (+?) for Olivia as she is washed up on shore.

  • Anne says:

    Funny, I have thought of this before. Times when I have spritzed MH Fleurs du Sel I have thought that Amelia Earhart must have worn it on her last flight. Air, ocean and aloneness.

    • Bryan says:

      What a beautiful thought. I love the imagery of the salty air and the solitude. How perfectly romantic in its own way. :”>