Sunday, November 26, 2017

Niki de Saint Phalle: fragrance review and musings on memory

My experience with Niki de Saint Phalle goes back many years ago. I was aware of Niki being a force to be reckoned with artistically of course even before meeting her scent; her impressive snake-shaped creations in hues of vivid emerald and lapis blue were like a prelapsarian vision of Heaven. I will never forget the time when I saw a real size serpent of hers in the library of one of the university facilities in Cordoba, Spain. I doubt the serpent sculpture is still there, yet the impression has stuck with a mental recall vividness which is truly arresting.

Niki de Saint Phalle's eponymous scent, Niki de Saint Phalle eau de toilette, is much the same arresting affair both in looks (the cobalt blue oval with the intertwining snakes) and in smell.

It feels like one steps into an immense pine forest in a day of frost, when the needles hang with snow on them. The snow feels like dry powder and soap, very starched and proper, like some aldehydic fragrances of the 1970s, but with that green bitter touch of wormwood-mossy quality and a dose of carnation, which makes it more mysterious than just a bon chic bon genre aldehydic floral.

In what concerns hardcore chypres Niki de Saint Phalle is an odd man (woman) out. It's artsy yet not too hard to wear, with a playful twist that recalls violet candy, less herbal or animalic than most chypres, a hint of leather, some temptation, some tongue-in-cheek. It's a bit like stepping into a university library only to be greeted by a giant snake sculpture that looms above your head in insatiable hunger.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: 
The Chypre Series: history, culture and aesthetics
Chypre Fragrances Explained for Newbies


  1. I adore this fragrance, fell in love with it at the first sniff...For me it is just right, not too sweet or powdery or too strong...I will wear it the
    rest of my life...Strangely enough, I gave a bottle of it to a relative, and she hated it at first sniff...Probably she just hated me and wouldn't have liked anything that I gave her...

    1. These people...ungrateful! Niki is a beautiful scent. And the bottle so memorable. If only for the bottle your gift should have caught her attention. A pity...

  2. This was the first fragrance I bought for myself as a teen... I liked it much better than what my classmates were wearing, and my mother thought it "unsuitable" for my age. (She probably was right. Ah, well...) I still like it---it reads like a green Chypre to me---although, yes, an approachable one compared to some of my other favorites in the genre. I prefer the EdP to the EdT greatly for better staying power and a different, more resinous feel to the scent.

    1. Really? What a milestone! And a very beautiful one at that. It does read like a greek chypre though it has that pine and resin background that I associate with "perfumey" chypres that read as "inedible" or powder. Good point about the differentiation between edp and edt. Thanks for including it. :)

  3. Anonymous08:20

    What a lovely scent - and truly special presentation. The parfum bottles with the sculpture... How I wish I had one now. But it wasn't just a pretty face. The scent seemed out of its time, yet exactly what the time needed. I was struck by how different it smelled on different people, too.


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