Big fig leaf… Ninfeo Mio by Annick Gouttal The Perfumed Dandy’s Sunday Scented Letter

Starting as sharp as the sculptor’s chisel.

A steely citrus brought to a point in renderings of lemon and its steely, burlier cousin citron.

The artist’s hands, armed with tools of petitgrain and wood, carve out the fleshier whole.

Cool galbanum-polished marble, made lustrous with lentisque, soon forms concupiscent curves.

Voluptuous lines of beauty that serve to excite and some disturb.

The shapes, muscular and sensual, soft and hard are unmistakably human.

A pleasure for most a pain for a few to regard.

So with deference to slighter, politer affected innocence.

A massive stone leaf is erected to cover that which otherwise might, and cause fright.

And the the piece becomes firmly all about the fig frond.

Annick Goutal’s Ninfeo Mio is a majestically intimate work of art, searchingly sensual to the point of becoming a delicious profanity in perfume form.

Conceived as a impression of a Roman garden in the height of summer, it’s interplay between the green fleshiness of fig leaf and the taught power of citrus and galbanum makes for a fecund fragrance more redolent of the revels of the Imperial Court than the lives of mere plants.

The briskness of the opening lemon note at once reveals that this is a aroma with fixed intentions, the smell is stripped from the rind laying bare the fruit’s inner facets in an instant.

Then follows galbanum in all it’s travertine assertiveness, an intervention almost architectural in it power.

But the beam is quickly roused into a relief of human forms and fig leaf scrolls, never fully realist, always artful, always surely stone.

And then an effect quite unexpected, out of a series of notes another, not present itself is conjured.

A definite dessicated coconut, of soft Eastern dishes, pastries and anointing oils appears and makes everything that has gone before even more luscious, bordering on the lascivious.

This must have been the sort of scent with which courtesans and concubines, favourite gladiators and golden boys were made to shine.

It is lusty and stony in equal part, one measure divine the other utterly human, sacred and profane and perhaps too powerful for all to handle.

Genius.

The statue of Michelangelo’s David was presented to Queen Victoria by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1857.

She passed it at once, it is said without ever having looked upon its ‘obscene’ form, to the South Kensington Museum, today’s V&A.

When finally she resolved to visit her priceless new piece she expressed herself inexpressibly shocked, an act which only a Sovereign can perform.

In reaction to such censure, curators immediately commissioned a composite stone fig leaf to preserve their new possession’s privacy.

The leaf, half a metre long, as befits a man six metres tall, was installed whenever ‘women of quality’ wished to view the masterpiece.

And so things continued until the time of Queen Empress Mary, indomitable wife of George V, who would become the world’s greatest dowager after husband’s death.

Mary of Teck, the most cultured individual Britain’s modern royal family have managed to import, required that the plaster cast be removed and the piece’s glory fully restored to public gaze.

Yet, for many contemporaries, the statue, so they thought, had remained more sexual when part covered.

The tension between concealment and nudity being a thing of sexual excitement.

The imagination more powerful even than the hands of the most revered master.

So fig leaves you see can sometimes be more erotic than the things they obscure.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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30 Comments

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30 responses to “Big fig leaf… Ninfeo Mio by Annick Gouttal The Perfumed Dandy’s Sunday Scented Letter

  1. Forget the perfume, I loved the history!! Queen Mary was quite something, I’ve always thought. And how she never buckled under the weight of a bosom laid down with the Titanic in jewel form, I’ll never know. But I’m going to have to ponder for a while if she was the most cultured royal that the British have ever imported. Ah, wait, you said into the *modern* royal family. That, I grant you, yes.

    Speaking of Dowager consorts, one day, my dear Beau, you and I are going to have to have a chat about the late Queen Mother. I shall try to take a valium beforehand to remain as politely restrained about her as possible….

    • Dearest Kafka
      The Dandy it must be said has something of a soft spot for ‘Princess May’, a woman who history treats somewhat harshly on account of her somewhat imperious looks.
      Yes, most definitely of the modern period, We have had large number of cultured Kings and Queens, home grown and imported going further back.
      Indeed I was at the theatre last night for a production of Marlowe’s Edward II, a man who, in part because of this great play, will be remembered for his weakness and sexual proclivities though in fact he was a learned man and magnificent patron of the arts.
      Such is life.
      As for Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Well. Firstly I think May would have shared some of your misgivings, she had personally take charge of our current Queen’s education and some very important matters relating to the succession.
      Moreover, I have a number acquaintances who worked on ‘access all areas’ documentaries on the late Queen Mother… very interesting tales they have to tell.
      Nut let’s not forget entirely about the scent, for it is rather splendid in a silkily flirtatious sort of way.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • I respect Queen Mary, I do. And I can understand why you have a soft spot for her. Re. Marlow & Edward II, I agree with you. It’s sad how history has always let playwrites and poets shape things. Witness the impact of Shakespeare’s Richard III (I never thought he killed the princes in the tower), Suetonius on most of the Caesars, the abominable hatchet-job on Cleopatra started by Octavian, and numerous people on poor Lucrezia Borgia or Anne Boleyn. As for soft spots, mine are for Edward VII and Prinny, two men whose personal lives have made them easy targets for those who want to give them credit for nothing at all. (Ok, it’s a harder sell with Prinny than Edward VII. lol) The Queen Mum, though…. gah. The woman makes me see red, almost as much perhaps as Queen Victoria. (I give Albert and her advisors ALL the credit for everything.)

        Ooops, sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to start a history discussion on your site. With regard to the scent, I have to confess that Annick Goutal hasn’t really stirred me to date. Their scents are too light, thin and gauzy for my tastes. The one exception being Songes. With regard to Ninfeo, your review is lovely, but I’m struggling to mentally align the prospect of galbanum with coconut. I fear the combination of notes as a whole isn’t my thing, but it’s a tribute to you that you could make me curious about it even in a small way. 🙂

      • Dearest Kafka
        Oh, feel free to talk of history whenever the whim takes you… it is after all one of the closest things The Dandy has to a profession.
        All your examples of historical figures ill served by literature are well observed. Though sometimes historians and translators must answer for their part anno domini character assassination. Shakepeare after all drew heavily on North’s Plutarch fo his understanding of the Ancient World.
        Edward VII is remembered for his affairs of the bedroom than state, though arguably he managed the monarchy effectively out of politics and into ceremony. Anne Boleyn, I’m not so sure, she has a very good reputation I feel, and much deserved too… now there was a woman of culture.
        Unlike Queen Anne regnant, a true fascination… the last sovereign to rule not reign, the last to believe in the divine right of kings the last to lay hand on the sick in the belief that she could cure them… a woman at the cusp of the Renaissance and Modern Worlds.
        Now, there you go, you have me at it.
        As to the perfume, the thing is the coconut is not there at all. It is a sleight of hand, an implication along the spectrum toward an almond like aroma. And the most peculiar thing matched with fig and galbanum it is quite magical.
        Insubstantial? Heavens no, This lasts and projects like a Wagner opera on The Dandy.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Dear Mr Dandy

    I have never smelled Ninfeo Mio but I have heard only good things about it. Your review is so much more than a review- but a vignette of Royal history, with illustrations that are so vivid that they remain with me long after I have finished reading.

    I got as far as petit grain and galbanum and I was hooked.

    Your friend
    IScent

    • Dearest Iscent
      I have a feeling (for I feel I know at least a little something of your taste) that you would, as the small talk goes, ‘go a bundle on this’… it’s also available at very reasonable prices at certain discounters just now…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. rosestrang

    Another one of my favourite perfumes. I love Ninfeo Mio and I remember the look of slight shock on an American cousin’s face when one day I got into his car having just sprayed on Ninfeo Mio! It’s definitely a surprise to anywone used to clean florals!
    It’s always so interesting to hear your perspective on a well-known perfume, and I know what you mean about its bodily, earthy nature juxtaposed with innocence. I find it mostly innocent in a grounded sort of way, because it reminds me of playing amongst trees and bushes as a girl. There’s something about that blackcurrant leaf note (not sure if it’s blackcurrant leaf, but it has a sharp slightly urinous scent) that reminds me of animal smells – a bit like the spraying of a wild cat in a verdant forest. But that part is quite subtle, I find it mostly richly citrus and woody. As you say the coconut is hardly there, and though I like it, I feel it doesn’t exactly blend. If only they had the fig accord used in Philosykos by Diptyque then I think this perfume would be perfect. Goutal really know what they’re doing with citrus notes don’t they?

    It also reminds me of tomato leaf – my Mum grew tomato plants, so again it’s a reminder of childhood outdoor games – a garden of Eden before shame was invented! Have you ever encountered the temples of Khajuraho in India in photos or real life? Victorian ladies weren’t allowed to look at those either and they couldn’t cover the entire temple complex in a fig leaf so those ladies really missed out! I’ve run out of Ninfeo Mio but a paintings sale comes up soon which means my once-every-three-months perfume bonanza!

    • Dearest Rose
      Our tastes collide once more in the most splendid fashion.
      Undoubtedly there is that sense of freedom that comes with being able to play outdoors, unfettered by the ministrations of adults. I remember with joy the scant summertime restrictions on my meanderings ‘just make sure your back before it gets dark’…. I fear few children enjoy such liberty today.
      Now you mention it, there could be both blackcurrant and tomato leaves here, for two of my favourite scents Eau de Campagne and Balmain de Balmain are echoed in this treasure.
      As for the coconut, it’s not listed as a note, and I suspect it’s not actually there at all, just a trick effected by the interplay of the other off-kilter notes.
      Citrus notes and Goutal are horse and four together. Though others find Eau d’Hadrien simplistic I think it is everything that the plain awful D&G Light Blue should be but isn’t and that astringency that runs through a number of their scents, like a river of feral spray, so much the better say I.
      Now, I don;t recognise the name ‘Khajuraho’ but I have a feeling that a google search might reveal one of though splendidly garish priapic Hindu temples of which one reads so much… I shall forth to view on line what those Victorian ladies were prevented from seeing in the flesh!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • rosestrang

        Too true, I’m amazed at how kids get shuttled to and from everywhere in cars these days, you hardly ever see them covered in mud either, pity!
        Priapic? – the ancient Hindus in Khajuraho appeared to be omniapic! (if such a word exists, which it doesn’t!). They are lovely sculptures too though

  4. Lilybelle

    I love Annick Goutal’s fragrances. They’re not too thin or weak for me – or perhaps thin and gauzy is what I like to wear most of the time (I especially love wearing vintage eaux if they haven’t turned). I haven’t smelled Ninfeo Mio, but I look forward to it now. Interesting history discussion, too. It’s always a pleasure to read here, Mr. Dandy.

    • Deaest Lily
      The Dandy can’t pretend to be expert in all of Annick Goutal’s range, but Madragore and Ninfeo Mio seem neither scant nor sheer to me.
      Though there’s much to be said for thin and gauzy sometimes, a little like viewing life through smudged lenses. As you’ll recall I took a fancy to a few Aquas Allegoria this summer and as for older Eau de Colognes…. now don;t get me started.
      I was very surprised to like this scent so much especially at this time of year, though on reflection, I always feel that galbanum has an association with October or reasons I can;t quite fathom.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. Cheryl

    May Richard be buried in York, and may I experience this scent ASAP.
    Sounds like perfection for a winter’s day when delicious gardens are
    filling your dreams.

    With love,
    Cheryl

  6. You’ve got to be a psychic, I just bought this on Thursday and wore this yesterday! It’s quite an interesting juxtaposition of citrus notes and fig.

  7. My my my my my! All of this and Heaven too. (The great Sandow) Now calm down Lanier…it is only a fig leaf. But my word I want to try it on myself… the perfume I mean. Oh! the more I yammer on the deeper the hole I dig! Suffice to say, I loved your review.

    • Dearest Lanier
      So good to see you around these parts again.
      How apt that you should recognise ‘The Father of Modern Bodybuilding’… The Prussian David, perhaps.
      As to your innuendos sir, I’m British, they are as coals to Newcastle as we would say.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  8. Fascinated, and jealous, that you can see so much in this perfume. I have tried it many a time and though pleasing initially, find it too ‘blocked’ and two dimensional. I had never considered a more sculptured side.

    • Dearest Ginza
      Interesting that you’ve tried it so many times… what brings you back to it I wonder?
      In a way I sort of understand what you mean about it’s apparent two dimensionality. Like the vast planes of colour in Matisse’s late paper cut out pictures.
      Yet those too, for me have a quality, like Elsworth Kelly or the Russian Suprematists (not Putin but Malevich & Co), that always strikes me as sculptural.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • My knowledge of art, and history for that matter, will never be equal to yours, but I do love the idea of there being more in this scent than I imagine there is.

        I think I want to like it more. I also love the opening, that slightly eye-squinting lemon/green thing, and think ooh I might need to get this. But then it always settles into something more ‘set’ or something and I get bored. I have had a few samples of it, so know it quite well now. The last time I tried it was when a friend came to stay, and I suddenly thought, hey actually, how about ninfeo mio, and she loved it, until it went into ‘that’ stage. To be honest, I find that with a lot of Goutal scents, much as I do like and admire the brand.

  9. Alice

    Not a perfume I Love, like Ginza above I have always had trouble with the AG line… much as I love the idea of them, and admire the creator (un matin d’orage being an exception)…
    But never mind the perfume.. I loved the review – such fun! You really are on a roll, the last few reviews have been top quality!

    • Dearest Alice
      It’s odd, this is not a scent, as I’ve mentioned I expected to like very much at all, but it just grabbed my by the lapels, it’s odd when that happens, but I always feel it’s best not to resist or ask too many questions in such situations.
      So glad you liked the tongue in cheek of the review too.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  10. Mary E.

    I purchased Ninfeo Mio but don’t wear it too often. The note to me that makes it tenacious is Mastic or Lentisque as in Infusion d’Iris Prada.

    • Dearest Mary
      After my initial burst of huge enthusiasm, I can imagine that this will become one I turn to every now and again (though to be honest that fate awaits nearly every perfume in my wardrobe bar the merest handful).
      I had thought it might by mastic that gave it bite, through a process of elimination rather than an intimate knowledge of the note.
      Thank you for the tip off, I will now endeavour to make better acquaintance with the splendidly named Lentisque elsewhere. The Dandy is ever one looking to improve his education!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  11. Hell I just love this scent. Makes me a little drunk! Like your style Dandy man.

    • Dear Querelle
      Welcome to The Dandy’s. Sincere apologies for the late reply, I have been in something of a seasonal repose.
      Now, do make yourself at home, and might I remark on how much I like your avatar name. To combine Our Man of Brest with the director who brought him so unforgettably to the screen.
      As to Ninfeo Mio… it is as intoxicating as the saturated colours of Fassbinder’s profane visions.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  12. Hell I just love this scent! Makes me a little drunk though! Like your style Dandy man.

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