"Her extraordinarily dark black eyes were so captivating, they were of such intensity that it was impossible not to be detained before them". The French have a wonderful verb to denote the agitation and emotional anxiety one is experiencing upon encountering a compelling and unsettling sight (usually one that involves a wily attractive woman): troubler. And coupled with the immortal words of Georges Braque : "L'art est fait pour troubler, la science rassure" (Art is made for unsettling, science reassures), this French verb took on a dual meaning in the onomastics stakes of the 1911 Pour Troubler perfume by Guerlain.
This gnomic attachment points to a scent fit for Liane de Pougy or even La Belle Otero, for the eyes of which the above image was put into such passionate words, yet in doing so Guerlain also managed to inject perfumery with apertures of bizarre cubiques through which we get a glimpse of a puzzling game of connotations. On the other hand the passionate, fatally mad love that transcends logic has always been at the core of Guerlain's promotional material, even in more obscure creations such as Voilà pourquoi j'aimais Rosine or Vague Souvenir (1912); and Pour Troubler is no exception.
The orientalised theme that slowly unfolds as the first drops of Pour Troubler begin their journey on the skin are ingrained in the evolving fashions of the first years of the second decade of the 20th century. The early 1910s saw fashionable feminine silhouettes become much more lithe, softer than at the beginning of La Belle Epoque and with a fluidity immortalised in Isadora Duncan's dance performances. Notably it was Les Ballets Russes performing Scheherazade in Paris in 1910 that sparked a craze for Orientalism. Couturier Paul Poiret was prompted to translate this vogue into opulent visions of harem girls and exotic geishas which catapulted the bastions of conservative circles into desiring the forbidden mysteries of the sensuous East.
Although no given notes exist for this Guerlain fragrance I tried to ponder on its structure as I contemplated the history of the house and the lineage, using this composition as a porthole into the creation process to follow. The initial impression of Pour Troubler is one of sweet, confectionary type licorice-anise, but not exactly veering into the beloved macaroon delicasy yet, which makes me think here was the spermatic idea behind L'Heure Bleue which materialized a year later. Indeed the reworking of several of the themes of L'Heure Bleue into both Fol Arôme(1912) and Pois de senteur (1917) indicates that Jacques Guerlain was working and re-working on certain aspects to emphasize nuanced ideas: from the romantically melancholic moment of day melting into the warm floral effluvium of the night, to the sensuous invitation to folly accompanied by fruits underpinned by absinthe-y tipsiness, finally leading to the honeyed sweet Miel Blanc* with spice accents. The anisic sweetness accord of Pour Troubler smells imbued with the softness of powdery violets and cool iris notes that give a gentle ambience, contrasted with richer florals like jasmine and what seems like jonquil, appearing in its heart. The florals treated in a transparent study of black and white softly fuse to reveal a hazy daguerreotype. Through this gentle fog the warmth of amber along with some bitterness of leather notes and sweet balsams polish the scent off in the embrace of a courtesan pictured in patina-laden postcards.
Extrait came in a quatrilobe capped Bacarrat flacon, same as the one used for Jicky (and later used for many other fragrances in the Guerlain stable). Eau de Cologne concentration, of which I am now proud owner of, came in the "disk" bottles with the pyramidal stopper, popular in the 50s and 60s. Pour Troubler is long discontinued, rendering it a rare occurence in online auctions.
A sample of this extremely rare fragrance will be given out to a random lucky reader!
*a perfumer's base by laboratoires de Laire redolent of honey
Lithograph "figure" by Georges Braque via allposters.com. POstcard of Carolina Otero via wikimedia commons. Parfum bottle courtesy of Russian site Palomka.livejournal.