Friday, November 16, 2007

Optical Scentsibilities: head thrown back in abandon

It had been no secret that Tom Ford's Black Orchid for women photoshoot involving Carin Roitfield's daughter (Carin being the editor in chief of French Vogue, no less) had been "inspired" by old Hollywood iconography. Tom Ford if nothing else is a brilliant marketeer who can always be relied upon to know which images will tick the fancy of his target audience. Or perhaps not.

In this case he was inspired by this Veronica Lake photo {click to see it!} by George Hurrell from 1941. The famous peek-a-boo platinum hair is now spawled all over the bed in a pose of surrender and what seems like vague expectation of who knows what.
A phone call, a caress, a bullet?

Dita von Teese, that gorgeous specimen of burlesque, has always relied on old-style Hollywood glam to project her divinely contrasted features. I had used this exact pic in lieu of the official one when I reviewed Black Orchid upon its launch {click for review}. It had seemed more glam than the official one and besides Dita has been a favourite for a long time.

Guerlain also had their own share in this department, alloting their iconic oriental Shalimar a place for this pose of surrender.

The original Opium advertisement with Jerry Hall, poster child of the late 70s, early 80s was first to be inspired by the glamour of yore. In this photo shoot she throws her head back as if high on the addictive powers of Opium. Very fitting considering the line is "For those who are addicted to Yves Saint Laurent".

This was my favourite from the group of Opium advertisments, if only because the fiery red of the model's hair (is it Angie Everheart?)is so complimentary to the cinnabar/vermillon colour of the perfume's flacon and so antithetical to the electric blue background. Remember electric blue, that favourite shade of the 80s that was vibrant like cloud charges on a night of temptest? It offset other shades so vividly...
Of course that pose can be also traced back to Veronica Lake in another shot by George Hurrell. This one: here! Pretty amazing, huh?

Perhaps one might trace the positioning of the body in such a manner to painting in the first place. In particular the iconography of St.Peter’s crucifixion, here by Luca Giordano (1692). Martyrs are often depicted in poses of abandon, as if they are left to their fate, willingly surrundering themselves to higher exigencies.

Then again I might be pushing it…

Ads from okadi,imagedesparfums and parfumsdepub. Veronica Lake pic from Ebay. Painting Crucufixion of St.Peter by


  1. Hmm... I do not like this Shalimar ad, it has something fundamentally different from the rest of these images, or is it just me? I think it is perhaps the fact that the model is looking straight at the camera with such an awake-intense gaze that lacks sultriness. I love the second ad of Opium. Nice find - I don't remember seeing this one before!

  2. Mmmm, well, the look at the camera thing is different, but the positioning is about the same and the intended subtext ("surrender to the power of the 'fume")I think, too.
    But you are right that the intense gaze lacks some mystique; I think they were going for provocation (as in a come on) since this is an ad from fairly recently.
    Yeah, that second ad for Opium is my fav!

  3. Oh, go ahead and push it, E, by all means! I love those Hurrell photos, and that attitude of abandon is, to me, very alluring. Great way to sell perfume. I'm trying to think of other examples of the pose in art, but all that comes to mind is the drowning Ophelia (Rosetti?).

  4. Well, I just might do so then, dear M! You shuttered my inhibitions.... :-)

    The drowning Ophelia deserves a post of her own ~soon! ;-)

  5. Oh, forgot to mention: and of course there are exempla by Caravaggio ;-)

  6. Anonymous19:24

    I don't think you're pushing it. Humans externally express surrender to a power greater than themselves in similar ways, whether they're surrendering to God's will or to French perfume.

    I've noticed that electric blue is making a comeback in advertising. I recently went through images in magazines, including Vogue, for a lesson, and I noticed that intense, cold blue is being used very effectively in ads,from cell phones to coats to freezers.

  7. Thanks Maria for your comment. Very succinctly put! Yes, perfume as a greater power is what the Shrine is all about! :-)

    Interesting that you mention the come back of electric blue in ads; I noticed it in fashion (not in a major way, but it's not as out of fashion as it used to for the last 10-12 years).

  8. Brilliant post. I love the connection you made between all the aspects. The feeling of abandon is very befitting for certain perfumes and it's easy to see why Tom Ford would go for it. Shalimar is a bit the odd one out, at least partly because the whole Guerlain image doesn't necessarily go with the concept.

  9. Thanks for the kind words and the detailed comment, dear G.

    Very interesting the (dis)connection between general image of Guerlain and the concept of abandon; perhaps you vocalised what D was trying to say above.

    However I have an idea that the Shalimar imagery is a bit distanced from the rest of the Guerlain "look" ~as an exception; at least in some advertisements.
    You prompted me to perhaps do a post on exactly that! ;-)

  10. Anonymous20:07

    omg! this is really helpful well im writing an assignment on a text which describes alot of the characters pose, well she has her head thrown back and this advert and comments totally helped! thanks i luv the idea of how it could represent abandonment as well as surrender which is what the novel is about essentially. If you must know which novel i am talking about it is: Foe by JM Coetzee


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