I feel that Angela Flanders’ Josephine is a perfume that expresses itself through the warm gaze of nostalgia; looking back fondly on the memory of a love from another time. A love so potent it seeps into the architecture of the heart and peppers the landscape of the soul, and it is only long after the pain of separation that one is able to look back upon such a love to cherish its memory.
With Josephine, Ms Flanders interprets violet through a kaleidoscopic lens, expressing different characters of violet via the nuances of Josephine, which for me feels like a production of love in three acts: the nervous first meeting, the full bloom of love, and, finally, the drifting away. There is a tenderness and gentle handling of delicate petals expressed in its execution which skirts the lines between gourmand flirtations and retro allusions, projecting a celebration of violets that makes Josephine a tribute to love and its namesake.
Josephine opens on my skin with a coy whisper of violet, a tentative first blush, and a peek-a-boo appearance before retreating briefly behind an herbal screen. Rose makes a brief cameo appearance, swishing her richly textured skirts, but it’s not her party. Instead the rose accord underscores the re-emerging violet notes with a depth and mature sensibility as they spread across the top layers of Josephine. Their sweetness begins to take on a powdery, tactile feel for me. They give me the impression of a dewy fleshiness, a cloudy mousse-like texture that feels like a sweet, enveloping cushion of fragrance. There is a familiar whiff of Parma Violets sprinkled with an almond powder that feels joyous, light and playful but also anchored by a certain coolness that lends balance to the blend.
I find that the oakmoss in Josephine makes itself known not by its aroma but by the general ambiance it lends to the fragrance. Whenever I experience oakmoss it gives me the sensation of descent. I can feel the familiar feeling of repose as it moves through my senses. I find this stage of Josephine so pleasing as the perfume settles into a hush of quietude, violets seamlessly recumbent over oakmoss. The sparkle in the purple petals is no longer of this time but a ghostly powder of the past conjuring images of a lover’s eyes as they soften with emotion and echoes of silver-throated sighs as they reverberate through the ear.
While researching the history between Napoleon and Josephine, I came upon this web site, which has a full copy of the correspondence between the two of them – very valuable because, while there seems to be countless copies of Napoleon’s letters, it proved rather difficult finding many from Joséphine herself. Perhaps because she was writing to Napoleon while he was off to battle; however, by all accounts, he wrote her much more often than she did him, which he scolds her throughout the course of the correspondence. Not only did he write her some of the most beautiful love letters I have ever read (I have to admit, even I fell in a little in love with him), but he also writes her of military and diplomatic matters in between other letters that range from banal updates on the weather and his health to others that read like post break-up, drunk-dials.
I hope you enjoy this piece I have put together from their correspondence, which I have set to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”. Another great love story…
Napoleon’s love of violets was such that it earned him the nickname Carporal La Violette. Violets are native to Corsica where Napoleon was born and grew up and were also a favorite flower of Joséphine’s. She carried a violet bouquet on her wedding day to Napoleon, and he sent her a bouquet of violets every year on their anniversary. The tempestuous story of their love is one well known to history, but is also one that did not end with their divorce in 1810. When he received news of her death four years later during his exile on Elba Island, Napoleon spent two inconsolable days locked away in his room, unwilling to see anyone. Upon his return to France in 1815, Napoleon visited Joséphine’s beloved estate, Malmaison, where it is believed he picked violets, the petals of which were found in a locket around his neck when he died in 1821.
Angela Flanders Josephine is available to purchase at Angela Flanders Perfumery on Artillery Row and to order here with prices starting at £2.50 for a sample vial, and is available as an Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum. Lovers of violet should definitely give Josephine a try. Violet perfumes are not something I wear that often, but when I do have a craving, Josephine always satisfies.
Poetry by Nazir Qabanni.