Thursday, 23 December 2010
We Three Kings: Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh - Myrrh
Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch
MYRRH: Eau d’Italie – Baume du Doge (“boho pomade”)
Notes: sweet orange, bergamot, wild fennel, myrrh, frankincense, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, benzoin, cedar, vetiver, cardamom, vanilla
Baume du Doge, created by Bertrand Duchaufour, takes its inspiration from Venice: firstly from the lofty personage of the Doge himself, the Republic's highest ranking official, and secondly from the spice trade, for which the area was an important hub. The position of Doge, an ecclesiastical, civil and military leader in a somewhat gynaecological-sounding power structure known as “caesoropapism”, was created as early as 700 AD, and persisted for some 1000 years.
I use the term “persisted” advisedly, for holding down the office of Doge was no cushy number, and the roll call of incumbents sounds a lot like the screenplay of a medieval Pulp Fiction. Yes, a cursory glance at Wikipedia reveals that some of the 120 doges over that millennium, who clocked up an average of 8.33 years apiece, actually had a bit of a torrid time to say the least. Already in the 8th century, a worrying pattern seems to be emerging:
- Teodato Ipato (742–755) deposed, blinded, and exiled
- Galla Gaulo (755–756) deposed, blinded, and exiled
- Domenico Monegario (756–764) deposed, blinded, and exiled
And see what happens when one of their number tried to break this cycle of sightless sacking and banishment…?
- Obelereo Antenoreo (804–811) exiled, attempted to return to power, killed & head displayed in the market
And then the pattern broke itself, though in a way that would have brought small comfort to the Doge in question.
- Pietro Gradonico (837–864) assassination, although in this case his successor arrested and executed the assassins
Given dogeal survival rates down the ages, losing some facial hair was pretty much as good a result as could be hoped for.
- Otto Orseolo (1009–1026) arrested, beard shaved, and banished to Constantinople for nepotism.
Okay, so so much for the Doges themselves – on to the “baume”….The word means “balm”, which in turn suggests to me some kind of solid perfume or pomade with which the Doge would have topped off his resplendent ceremonial attire. And meanwhile myrrh, which features in this scent, was traditionally used as an “embalming oil”, and there are suggestions that the Wise Man who gave it to the infant Jesus was alluding obliquely to the crucifixion the latter would go on to suffer. If so, that makes myrrh rather a dark choice on his part, but there it is.
In selecting Baume du Doge and Icon, I seem to be drawn to an orangey-myrrh kind of a vibe, as both scents feature those notes. (Baume du Doge additionally has frankincense, so it could also have traded places with Eau Duelle.) However, Baume du Doge is very different in style from Icon: it is heavy, where Icon is bright and slightly astringent; it is also sweet and woody and spicy and jolly incensey. I am almost inclined to call it “gourmand incense”, if such a fragrance category exists. The first main olfactory element I can discern here is a bone dry woodiness that is the Duchaufour's hallmark (most memorably in Timbuktu), with connotations of tea chests and old furniture – it is an overtly “planky” style of woodiness. We are talking sharp shards of wood you could snag your pullover on if you are not careful.
This woody base is overlaid with the sweet, spicy creamy accord of the “baume”. The orange disappears quite quickly in the scent’s development, and the clovey, cinnamony spices take over. I picture a pot of pomade on dark wood dressing table in a room that barely sees the light of day. A dressing table stored in an attic would be even better, but I can’t see our Doge being quite spry enough to shimmy up the retractable step ladder to fetch down his musty unguent.
The overall effect of this scent is soothing and ecclesiastical. The same feel as Etro’s Messe de Minuit, but creamier and spicier – warmer and with less of the dank flagstoney thing going on.
Now one of the ceremonial duties of the Doge was to celebrate the symbolic marriage of the city of Venice with the sea by throwing a ring from the State barge into the Adriatic. And it just so happens that I wrote this post in Venice, California, right on the beach, lushly fringed by palm trees and encampments of tramps and hippies.
Hippies…ah yes… that is the other element of which Baume du Doge vaguely reminds me. Head shops selling joss sticks abound in Venice Beach, and everyone here is pretty chilled, so possibly they are high on nag champa and baumed up on the nearest contemporary equivalent to our Doge’s pomade...which in modern hairdressing parlance would of course be called "product", but that is a whole other post...
The other participating blogs are listed below - we have all chosen different scents, so every post will be a different interpretation of this theme!
Redolent of Spices
Scent of the Day
All I Am - A Redhead
Chicken Freak's Obsession
Notes from Josephine
The Perfume Chronicles
My Perfume Life
Photo of Baume du Doge from Fragrantica, photo of a Doge from Wikimedia Commons, photo of the Doge's Palace from egypttoursonline.com and photo of an incense stall on Venice Beach my own.