How can a woman so cleanly, clearly beautiful be so irredeemably and irresistibly impure?
For make no mistake, resistance, in this case, is utterly useless.
She is the latter day Lavinia Fenton.
Intent, with guile, a winning smile and her favours to climb every greasy pole, ascend every golden stair.
To gain preferment, forge friendships, collect hearts and break them.
Look at her.
At first she appears an art deco styled Duchess of Cleveland.
Arms and neck architectural in their elongation, movements languid yet elegant: expressive in their extension.
Her costume, no mere clothes for her, is remarkable.
She is dressed in a contemporary parody of a 1970s pastiche of jazz age ‘bright young things’ got up as Stuart and Georgian anti-heroines.
She is the culmination of all things courtesan.
An apotheosis of polite near prostitution.
A perfect specimen of a kept woman set free by her own cleverness and incredible good looks.
The shrew too shrewd to be tamed.
She may enter a room alone, but she is never unaccompanied.
Invisible courtiers go everywhere with her to carry an unseen train of ermine and shower her procession in white flower petals on the cusp of putrefaction.
The peerless peeress of the plausible arts of the flesh, her function and her triumph is to beget pleasure.
Sullied, superior, imperious, delirious.
She is the bringer of Joy.
Joy by Jean Patou is all fur coat and indolic white flowers.
The perfume that claimed once to be the world’s most expensive remains, at least in versions more than a couple of decades old, one of fragrance’s most expansive contradictions.
A collision of sharp edges at the opening with a Rubenesque surfeit of fragrant flesh lying within.
We start with a slightly mentholated tuberose, not quite camphorous, bleached ylang ylang and razor aldehydes. There may even be a hint of high pitched musk here too, though I would not declare with certainty on this point.
Then the fat ladies arrive and dominate the tableau fragrant.
Yes, there is the legendary civet note, not nearly so dirty as some unaccustomed to it would have one believe, merely sexily unwashed. But also the turning, part faecal, part fecund jasmine that permeates all parts of the perfume and is at least the equal signature.
Another force to be reckoned with is a slightly rotten rose. A bloom late in the season, when the ripeness of the scent and the decaying greenness of the leaves come together to create a decadent accord that is appealing but deathly.
Appropriate really, for this is unmistakably a femme fatale fragrance.
Indeed it has the endless staying power of a legendary lover whose amorous advances have the capacity to kill.
Joy is no common trollop to be cast aside once momentary passion is spent.
This is a scent with grand designs on a lasting tryst: remaining powerfully on the skin for a dozen hours, veering from floral to animal, but never straying from excess.
Yes, excess, paired with restraint.
There we have it, that contradiction again, the paradox perfume:
Joy is a smell for the badly behaved that is ever so, ever so good.
An uncrowned Queen of an aroma.
What of the latest formulation I hear you ask?
I’m afraid it seems to have been washed detergently bland.
It offers a laundry fresh opening that is too literal and harsh, and frankly done better elsewhere for much less money.
In the heart it opens up into a well-meaning and broadly drawn floral with considerable aldehyde heft…. But where is the animal?
All the fur, fun and life is gone.
Stick with the vintage, if you possibly can.
It’s good to be back.
The Perfumed Dandy.