I first became aware of Alphonsine Plessis, who later became Marie Duplessis, one of the most famous courtesans, or demi-mondaines, of 19th century Paris during the reign of Napoleon III (1852 – 1870) while reading Virginia Rounding’s fantastic Grandes Horizontales, which details the lives of four of the most celebrated courtesans of 19th century France. Through her relationship with Alexandre Dumas, fils, who was one of Marie’s amant de coeurs (a lover of the non-paying variety), Marie Duplessis became immortalized as Marguerite Gautier in Dumas’ La Dame aux Camélias and then later as Violetta Valéry in Giuseppe Verdi’sLa Traviata, which I decided to listen to for the very first time ever whilst writing this review, and it is absolute stunning.
I had received samples Jardins d’Ecrivains Gigi (also gorgeous) and La Dame aux Camélias from Bloom Perfumery in Spitalfields some time ago, and only just happened to have an “oh hello” moment with the La Dame aux Camélias sample a couple of days ago when I was tidying a drawer so I decided to have a moment with this beautiful fragrance and to explore La Dame aux Camélias.
“She was tall and slim, fresh as a spring flower; her bodily beauty perhaps lacked that fullness so appreciated by the Turks, those rich curves without which there is no perfection. A painter would have chosen her as a model, a sculptor never. But she was deliciously pretty. Her long, thick, black hair was magnificent, and she arranged it with inimitable skill. Her oval face with its regular features, slightly pale and melancholy when calm and in repose, would suddenly come to life at the sound of a friendly voice or warm and sincere word. Her head was child-like. Her sweet and sensuous mouth boasted a display of dazzlingly white teeth. Her hands and feet were so slender that her fingers could almost seem too long. The expression of her large black eyes, with their long lashes, was penetrating, and softness of her glances gave rise to dream.” Romain Vienne, La vèrité sur la Dame aux camélias
La Dame aux Camélias opens with a cleansing dose of crisp citrus notes which quickly draws back the curtains to allow the floral accords to take centre stage in an elegant, nuanced blend of violets, roses and camellias. The fragrance almost has a creamy, marshmallow feel to it that is definitely sweet, but never overly so. The sweetness feels very refined and tempered down to a soft pillowy powder that quietly envelopes me as I go about my day wearing La Dame aux Camélias, and I am quite conscious of it for at least three or four hours after first applying with only a spray on each wrist and my inner elbows.
I have been wearing La Dame aux Camélias for three days now whilst writing down my impressions of it and collecting my ideas for my review, and I just find it constructed so exquisitely. I love the way the sweetness never fully takes over the experience of wearing this fragrance, and there is a certain creamy quality to it that I find absolutely addictive. As the fragrance wears on my skin there is a quality that comes to the surface, almost a sharpness, a very brief pin prick, amongst the creamy, enveloping floral sweetness that keeps my nose going back for more in an olfactory trance.
La Dame aux Camélias is gorgeously feminine, a cologne for night, for day, for charming your next amant de coeur, and savoring the irresistible allure and bewitching pull of a clandestine, finite liaison.
“Marie remains as elusive and beguiling as ever, endlessly fascinating and enigmatic, a young woman whose very short, dissolute and extraordinarily full life became a symbol of paradoxical purity and against whom the lives of other courtesans would be judged.” Virginia Rounding
La Dame aux Camélias Olfactive Pyramid:
Top Notes: Verbena, Cardamom, Orange Blossom
Middle Notes: Violet, Rose, Camellia
Base Notes: Tonka Bean, Musk, Juniper Wood