Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Papillon Artisan Perfumes - Anubis, The Siren's Song

 Gustave Moreau - The Sirens, 1872

Much has been written about Liz Moores’ recently launched Papillon brand. It became an internet phenomenon long before the scents were ready for sale, mostly due to her prolific engagement with scent lover’s forums online.

What has not yet been discussed yet is the untamed erotic disposition of the scent that stirred me most significantly – Anubis.  

True erotica isn’t concerned with the sex act, instead, it brings forth imagery to tease and rouse the imagination. It is enigmatic rather than explicit. In the fact that is more to do with the mind than actuality, erotica can play with concepts or imagery that perhaps you might not necessarily want to connect with in real life.  I’m sure that no seafaring man wished to end his life shattered upon the bloody rocks, lured by the bewitching call of the Siren.  And yet there is no doubt the fantasy of resting his cheek amongst the plentiful bosom of the sinister maritime songstress sisters would have surely whistled a breeze up his flagpole.

Anubis is primarily a smoky leather scent, underpinned with a spiritual incense that renders it ‘otherworldly’. My first thoughts were of David Hemmings playing the startlingly handsome Captain Nolan in the 1968 film – The Charge Of The Light Brigade. It’s not just the almighty horsey leather boots reference, it’s in his eyes. A star reigning long before the advent of Touche Eclat, his beauty was magnified by the dark shadows underneath eyes of sapphire. Shadows that hinted at late nights and Byronic decadence. Gothic chic – a deathly pallor.

Captain Nolan

Leather has traditionally signified the erotic in perfumery. It’s no wonder when we consider the connotations of this whiff. The obvious (and to me unappealing) signification is the relationship between leather and S&M. However a more intriguing idea is the imagery of the horseman, the hero that will rescue us from danger, or perhaps the highwayman that will hold us at peril. The young girl that reads stories of valiant horseback rescue may also be the girl who’s first love is a pony. In this case the ripe leather and grassy sweat smell of saddlery and the excitement of our first pair of proper riding boots is associated with the obsessive equine love of the teenage girl, creatures that we adored and nurtured and nuzzled long before we discovered boys.

Anubis contains an almost briny element, reminiscent of fresh sweat upon the skin or the seawater that clings to us following a dip in the sea. The sea brings me back to mythology and the great paintings of classical tales. Manchester Art Gallery displays a melancholically erotic depiction of Sappho, poet of Ancient Greece, said to have ended her life by jumping off a sea cliff driven quite mad by her love of a ferryman. Some years ago I swam in icy, weed riddled waters off the West Coast of Scotland. Under a black sky spattered with the incandescent spectacle of the Milky Way, I was struck by the terror of unseen creeping hands of the  seaweed and yet overcome by the almighty feeling of being consumed by vivid raw nature in a vast landscape. When I stand in front of Sappho I feel both the terror of the sea and the absolute elemental nature of feminine sensuality.

Charles-August Mengin - Sappho, 1877

We are indeed creatures of Mother Nature, affected at base level by the stuff of the earth. Living in the modern world we take our sensual pleasures in our homes, most often in bed. But our fantasies often take us outside where our visions of amourous embraces are acted out in the forests and mountains, the picnic with the sun baked and bonded skin, the hidden shelter of a canopy of trees in an electrical storm, the whiff of a man’s hair tainted by wood smoke. Were I not afraid of the chanting, rituals and terrible fashion, I’d without doubt become a Pagan priestess.

Which leads me nicely back to Liz. Not that I’m suggesting that she is indeed a Pagan priestess, but she does live deep in the countryside surrounding by a gaggle of children, various pets and domesticated wildlife. It seems fitting that such an evocative perfume came from a nose with a profound love of rural life. 

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  1. The image of David Hemmings' dark shadowed eyes is spot on to convey the brooding intensity and smouldering eroticism that struck you in Anubis. I need to retest the perfume now to check out the briny facet - love the painting of Sappho to illustrate the notion of a salty dip. She is another good ambassador for the scent, as she looks as though she could bore through rocks with that gaze. And yes, I'd say Liz has a 'profound love of rural life' all right. I have seen a photo of her and the children out for a ramble in the woods, owl in tow.;)

    1. Vanessa, you must come and see Sappho next time you're in Manchester. It's an enormous painting and so deeply haunting. This tiny repro pic does it no favours. My favourite in the gallery. In fact there are many I could have used here, we have some Pre-Raphaelite water nymphs too. Many dark spirited ladies of Manchester.

    2. I have checked out the Pre-Raphaelite collection at the Walker Art Gallery in L'pool, but never visited a cultural building in Manchester - for my sins!

  2. Love this piece of writing! It's a lot more intellectual than what I usually read in reviews, and also more emotionally fanciful, all things that I enjoy.

    Anubis smelled so much like leather death to me, I couldn't get over the picture of dead things crumbling away into eternity. There was *one* time when it smelled heavenly on me though, the incense came through. I'll have to hope for another scorching day this year and give it a go once again.

    1. Hello there, I'm giggling a little at the idea of being emotionally fanciful. I think you are spot on in your observation!
      I guess Anubis could be somewhat morbid, or an olfactory combination of sex and death. Maybe that's why it's so exotic?
      Thank you for your comment. Do stop by again.