Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Two : Washington DC

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Standing tall in the middle of The National Mall, covered in scaffolding, the great obelisk of The Washington Memorial looks like nothing more than a neo-classical space rocket readying for take off.

In the heat and the brilliant sunshine it is easy to imagine being a member of the vast crowds gathered at Kennedy Space Center, waiting for an Apollo to blast off into orbit and onwards to the moon.

To cut through the heat, the tension, the smell of high grade carbon fuel and recapture a certain part of that space age hope of ’69, the icy futuristic cool of galbanum at the heart of Guerlain‘s often-sleighted Chamade seems just perfect.

Best of all, the parfum bottle, at least in The Dandy‘s imagination, is a space vessel that looks capable of travel at many times the speed of light.

The Freer Gallery of Art

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Across on The Other Side from The White House beyond Washington’s Rocket, The Freer, a less visited gem of the Smithsonian is just opening.

We enter through heavy luxurious doors, weighed down with fittings that would not be out of place on the portes of the palaces of haute couture in Paris.

The cool interior, lit by shards of sunshine from skylights high above smells softly of blossom from the courtyard garden I see sitting beyond the equally impressive bronze framed french windows just ahead.

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“You’re the first ones in…” the elderly, deep voiced guard calls half wearily half cheerily and without rising from his chair as we walk past his expansive desk.

Then for what feels like half an hour or more are alone with the art, except for a docent here and there keeping a watchful eye on us as we progress though galleries of Whistler, Asian Art, the famous Peacock Room imported whole from London.

Now I find myself fancying myself a self made railroad millionaire turned connoisseur, travelling the world to bring back precious artefacts to show off in my own art gallery.

In my alternate tycoon’s existence a sharply defined self confidence and sharper suits, my sense of style and awareness of my own power dictate a brisk, bright cutting and animal scent, one that will one day do for a President cut down in his prime.

Caswell Massey’s Jockey Club has been compared with the legendary holy grail of perfumery Coty’s Chypre, sadly I cannot attest to this never having smelt the latter, but that women and men with a taste for a robust piercing sort of smell would do worse than turn to this cologne.

The objects here are lustrous to the point of sensuality.

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The art sufficiently sensuous to evoke an abstract and undefinable sexuality.

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Thomas Wilmer Dewing‘s almost absent women wandering through landscapes that are not even nearly there evoke a sense of otherworldliness, at odds with the sumptuous paraphenlia of royalty, wealth and collecting that populate the other rooms.

As a scent Jour d’Hermes stands as just such a contrast, in its case to the fruit and patchouli and honey and chocolate overabundance of so many contemporary fragrances made for a female audience.

Its sparsity to me is spacious.

Its measured tone translating as a welcome meditation on the nature of perfume.

The Hirshhorn

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Outside, we ready ourselves for contemporary art in the manicured sculpture garden of the cylindrical mass that is the Hirshhorn Museum.

In a tiered rectangle of green, furnished with flowers and shrubs, Barry Flannagan’s outsized hares leap from behind trees, The Burghers of Calais contemplate their terrible sacrifice and an Henry Moore slumbers quietly in a corner.

There is an air of undeniable serenity here.

Bronze against green grass, glistening steel against blue sky.

There is stillness at once with movement.

Shapes form and reform beneath the serene surface of Etro‘s beautifully crafted Palais Jamais, a perfume that contains a story so great it was made a novel about a great hotel.

‘Are chypres the natural scents of sculpture?’  whisper as we enter the Star Trek style museum and await the onslaught of the modern.

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Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part Two : Washington DC

  1. Lilybelle

    That was lovely, Mr. Dandy. Thank you for the virtual tour. What an interesting selection of fragrances. You always make me want to try everything you talk about. I love Chamade, and I think I love Jour d’Hermes (I need to try it again, but I really liked it), and now I want to try Jockey Club and Palais Jamais. I rea

    • Dearest Lily
      New places always lead to new perfumes, as we will see when I arrive in NYC, but they also create olfactory associations and send me back to scents that I haven’t tried for some time, especially the special ones.
      Jockey Club, was just such an American discovery, whereas Palais Jamais I was luck enough to come across when I stayed there a decade and a half ago…
      I have a feeling that you would find both interesting, and though Palais Jamais, like much by Etro, can be hard to track down these days.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Chamade for me. please! I want to smell like the hope of a new Space Age 🙂

  3. What a lovely pair of posts. Washington is one of my favorite cities for museum-going. I hope you got a chance to stop in at the Natural History Museum, that great temple of the natural world. You have me wanting to hurry back there myself.

    • Dearest Feral
      Washington was a museum lovers paradise.
      Obviously we are spoilt here in London too with galleries and museums, but so many of the ones in Washington were serenely quite whilst ours are bursting at the seams.
      All in all it was an immense treat.
      Sadly we didn;t make it to Natural History as we simply ran out of time, but I know I will return again to this amazing place, and we did spend some time in the Botanical Gardens.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. I have to get me a bottle of some of that “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Jockey Club!! There is a Caswell Massey in town so off I go this weekend on the hunt!

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