Saturday, May 22, 2010

One more for the road- Lentheric Miracle

Above is a 1926 advertisement for Lentheric Miracle. It is shown in its original black and gold flecked flacon. Later versions of Miracle (late 1930-1940s) are found in the crystal Greco-Roman inspired coulmn bottles.
This post is just a quick update on yesterday's post- this time with some scant information I managed to locate on the notes for this most interesting of the Lentheric offerings (to me, at least). Yesterday I mentioned finding something metallic in Miracle- I thought about Iris and pine as I sniffed. And then I found a partial list of notes- White Iris Root, Morrocan Cedar and Laveder. Well, that explains the Iris and pine I was getting. I still suspect my bottle has lost some of the grogeous roundness and fullness I would expect to find (still) in a sealed parfum version of Miracle. If and when I do manage to locate some of this elixer, I'll be sure to do a quick update of it. In the meantime, happy sniffing to us all...

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A little Miracle & vintage Lentheric perfume advertising...

Well I did manage to pull off a small Miracle... in that I've found the time to shoot off a quick write up of a lovely trio of fragrances from Lentheric via the well advertised vintage set called "Three Silent Messangers". TSM sets were produced from the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. The set was produced possibly as a traditional annual Holiday/Christmas promotion. You'll see many variations of the box decor some with figures (what I wish for...) and some (like mine, in pink, gold & white) rather plainer and more resembling a fancy wall paper design. The trio of scents in the TSM sets were advertised to include combinations of Tweed, Confetti, Bouquet Lentheric, Miracle and Shanghi.  But the bottles were the standard 2 ounce size, and there are other scents from the same time period and in the same bottle that were originally offered in other sets and as singles, so you may find some TSM sets that now include other Lentheric perfumes. The perfumes in the set are all "Bouquet Lentheric" which causes some confusion since that designation was apparently also the name of a particular perfume and then a term they used on all their edts or edcs, to denote the concentration of the fragrance.

That being said, the perfumes in this set still smell wonderful and quite strongly too. I think the top notes are there, and since I've had some mixed results with "turned" Lentheric perfumes... I'm glad to be able to boast about their fine condition. Tweed is perhaps the best known and most successful of all Lentheric scents originally released in the late 1930s. It is a lovely lavender woody floral which triggers memories of Moment Supreme. It smells clean and fresh in a completely refreshing way. Confetti is also a 1930s release. It smells beautiful- herbal sweet and balsamic, a floral with powdery and resinous nuances. Miracle was released orignally in 1925; it smells a little different to me than it did when I found my first bottle that was a newer edt. My first impressions of Miracle was that it is a green-citrusy chypre type. But it smells as if it also contains some vanilla and there is a slightly metallic note that I find discordant. I can't find my other bottle of Miracle just now, so there'll be no side by side comparison of those two tonight. But as Miracle (1925) is the oldest of the three, I'm thinking this one is a reformulation. And I'd still love to try Miracle in a parfum just in case (as I'm beginning to suspect) that the version I have right now is a fragile beauty, marred.

Tweed was Lentheric's biggest hit. It sold well for years and years and probably financed the creation of many other Lentheric creations. It's not a "big" scent, and maybe not even a traditional "date night" scent. But it is the type of scent you practically can't overapply and I'm hard pressed to imagine anyone finding it objectionable. It smells youthful and spontaneuos, fresh and uncomplicated, modern and a little unisexy, easily worn in the workplace, dressed up for dinner with the parents and relaxed enough for a sweater-and-pearls type of girl on the weekend. It's musky base and herbal cologne-like top makes me believe that even a man who doesn't like perfumes on his women would have like her in Tweed.

Lentheric is another one of those venerable old French houses that survived for many years and endured several change of hands in its time. Today it is alive but in name only, a new Lentheric that doesn't do high end perfumery but mostly cheap men's and women's body sprays in big bright printed cans (a few are also that are offered in EDP as well).  But in the beginning, it was all different. Of course, we would have to go back to 1795 to be invited for the original opening of Lentheric. Like so many other perfume houses Lentheric began as a millinery and only a handfull of short years later the hair, make-up and perfume services were added. Over the years, Lentheric has had a long line of perfume releases. It was a prolific house all the way through the 1920s and 1930s, surviving a time when less well established or fortunate houses saw releases trickle and finally slipped away. Then in 1942 came big changes for Lentheric. The house was sold to the giant pharmacutical/chemical company, Squibb. I'm sure it was the beginning of the end for the tradition of artistry in perfume creations for Lentheric, but at the same time I think it heralded a Mad Men like era of extensive advertising campaigns, expensive magazine lay-outs and really great promotion. So we are left with a legacy of many, many beautiful and imaginative advertising images to feast on. Honestly, I love the vintage perfume advertisements almost as much as the perfumes themselves- and I can share them with you here, which makes it even better!

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

images from EBay seller Tall Palms, Vintageads4U, vintage ads browser, MagicElectron, reuegestes, devocanada, and if I missed one I'm sorry- I've been collecting these images for a while.

New posts coming soon and roses from the garden...

The school year ends for me next week. Oddly it is one of the busiest times of the entire cycle but nevertheless I'm working on a few new write-ups for the Vault. You won't see anything posted until next weekend unless I can pull off a small miracle. Until then, here are some of the beautiful roses I've been pulling from the garden and stashing in small to big vases all around to scent the house. We're blessed to have inherited some really well established vintage roses at our new digs and I'm learning that the flowers from each tree smell a little (or a lot) differently. Some are really lemony with notes of tea and honey, some have hints of pine and spicy resins, and some exude an incredible, almost fully formed and violet-nuanced perfume. But the blossoms that follow shortly after a severe pruning can smell especially fragrant. After next week I'll be able to give the Vault all the time and attention it deserves but in the meantime, enjoy all your scented wanderings . 

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A question of bees...

Too busy with Mother's Day (and work, always) for a proper post this week. I do apologize if you're disturbed by scary pictures but take a look at what I found under one of the lemon trees this morning! Of all our fruit trees (orange, apple, cherry and lemon), lemon is most popular with bees and this particular little tree has been vibrating with all sorts of bees this week. I think it's probably hard for you to tell but this bee is nothing like our little honey bees. It's even a bit bigger than the big black carpenter bees we usually find buzzing around and around that tree. It's a giant lion-like bee covered in what appears to be golden fur! I'm actually wondering, could it be an Africanized bee?? If you happen to know, please comment. Otherwise I'll be back next week with more vintage perfume talk...
The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Story of Cuir de Russie...

Well, as promised it's shaping up to be a very busy spring. I know it's May 1st and the official kick off of spring but for those of us here on the West Coast, spring has already sprung and we're getting set to kick off the summer season. I'm even putting my tomatos in the ground today tomorrow, a May 1st ritual that is in perfect keeping with my biozone. Many perfumistas will be wearing their favorite Lily of the Valley scent today; it's something of a tradition in Europe and especially in France to celebrate May Day by wearing sprigs of Lily of the Valley. But as usual I'm striking a counter-note and wearing a vintage Cuir de Russie perfume instead!

Cuir de Russie as a perfume style has been explored in depth by many perfumers. Several years ago there was a definitive blog entry on the subject by Bois de Jasmine. Regardless of the fact that there were numerous predecessors, Chanel produced what we consider the prototypical feminine version of Russian Leather perfume. Her version of Cuir de Russie was composed by Ernest Beaux and originally released in 1924. That perfume, much more so than the famous No. 5, captured Coco Chanel's true essence. Rich and compelling (and a little rustic), it is more an homage to the backbone of the woman who wears it than a celebration of her smartly tailored clothing, coiffed hair or painted face.

Guerlain (Amie, that is) actually is credited with one of the earliest Cuir de Russe. He did his in 1875- soon after taking the comany from his ailing father and several years before creating his opus Jicky (1889). Like Chypre, Cuir de Russe transended any singular perfume to become a broadly interpreted perfume type. Many prominent and not-so-prominent houses ended up offering a Cuir de Russe/Russie in their lines. As Russia turned from Czarist rule, years of imperialist tradition died. The motherland was seen less as a producer of luxury items and more for its political ideaology. It is not so surprising then that many, if not most modern era Cuir perfumes began to be called by other names.

Nevertheless, there are many worthy vintage Russian leather perfumes the collector may happen across. If you know my leanings (as far the scope of this blog), you will not be surprised that my Cuir de Russie of the day is rather more obscure than the famous Chanel version. This one was done by a French company that existed in Paris only from around 1936 until sometime in the 1950s (a guess) called the Scientifiques de Beaute Vonna, or more simply Vonna. Vonna was a minor player in the world of perfume even in its hayday with barely any written history (at least Web-wise) and no discernible history of advertising. In fact, that's why it is featured here. If someone else knows more about the history of Vonna perfumes, then let him (or her) speak and add to our story.

I obtained my boxed, sealed bottle of Cuir de Russie de Vonna from an online auction for very little $$. The packaging is very Art Deco, a slide from the top box with an inner throne formed of paste-board that reveals the front of the bottle upon opening. The outter box is done color block style, with a powder blue background with a white margin along the right hand side, suggesting the view revealed by pulling back a curtain.  The bottle is a plain rectangular prism with a matching flat-top frosted glass stopper. The label is austere, cream with plain gold lettering.

Purchasing something from a house you've never heard of before is a gamble. Essentiallly, any vintage purchase (if you're hoping to wear the perfume) is a gamble. The quality of preservation of the juice is unknown until you (or soemone you trust) has smelt it. But I like to take that chance for myself since I usually have great luck in finding and selecting beautifully preserved specimens. This find was no exception because despite it showing evidence of an earlier leak, the perfume inside the bottle remains beautifully preserved.

To be honest, I bought this one hoping that it would a be a faithful duplication of Chanel's CdR. I thought perhaps it was a reasonable assumption. Vonna seemed so obscure and the name so empty of signficance that it might only have existed, as so many houses do to reproduce thoughtless copies of already famous perfumes. But boy was that idea wrong. Instead of snagging something that smelled like anything else, I went down the poverbial rabbit hole and ended up exploring something totally unique. Without comparing it to anything, the Vonna CdR smells strongly of leather. But a side-by-side comparison of a 1930-40 era Chanel CdR (parfum also) reveals the Vonna is a much softer leather scent than the Beaux/Chanel version, making the Vonna seem like an almost suede-like, more modern rendition of leather. A side-by-side comaprison with modern suede perfumes (Serge Lutens Daim Blond and Indult's Reve en Cuir) confirms, this is indeed a softer and surprisingly supple and modern turn of leather.

Vonna's Cuir De Russie opens fittingly with an over-dose of orange blossom. I say fitting because the fleshy orange blossom petals that fall from our orange trees this time of year have a naturally leathery, almost petrolish tone with an almost narcotic, honeysuckle-sweet nectar scent. Along with orange blossom, Vonna's leather seems to have been cured in a vat of violet petals (thanks to a heavy touch of ionones, no doubt). It dries down to an ultra-smooth, almost sweet tonka-suede nougat that maintains its leather character while becoming more and more powdery; you can detect on paper 24-48 hours and long beyond- it lasted as long as the Chanel extrait, although the far-dry down bases reveal even more the difference. All in all, Vonna a fantastic leather perfume for the vintage collector, if you can find it.

Perhaps one would need to travel back in time to be able to further pull back the curtain that shrouds Vonna. There is at least one related perfume I recall, a self-titled Vonna, from ~1936. On a label affixed to the Vonna Cuir de Russie bottle is a badge that reads Produits de Scientifique de Beaute de Vonna, Cachet de Garantie. History tells us that in 1926 the very similarly named Academie Scientifique de Beaute was born in Paris. The company (still family owned to this day) was founded by the French pharamcist Georges Gay, and they claim to have opened the first scientific beauty academy to train aestheticians in 1928. Many of those who were trained at the Academie went on to work with the great beauties of the day who worked in the growing film industry. While there is no direct evdience of the Academie making perfumes, one wonders was Vonna one of the institutes earliest graduates? Did she perhaps branch out into perfumes and possibly add cache to her own name by affiliating it with the Scientifique de Beaute title? The timing and place are certainly right, if not the conclusion...

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

image of vintage girl (despite my google avatar, she is my [vintage] doppleganger), from moregrittyv677202.blogspot
image of Vonna Cuir de Russie from Worthpoint auction house
image of vintage Chanel Cuir De Russie ad
imaeg of orange blossom from
image from Academie Scientifique de Beaute, implied to be Georges Gay 1926