DEJA VU ~ Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle

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Year after year she looks with serene beauty toward the horizon of eternity. She has been doing this for a while, long before the museum acquired her. In fact she has been facing oblivion peeking out from under that charming hat since 1782. She has hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny hairline cracks. But you can only see them when you are inches from her and they make her all the more beautiful. She has been spellbinding men for two hundred and thirty two years.


     But there is one man, Nilson Quigley to whom she spoke to as to no other. He first saw her on a school field trip in the winter of 1934. That day when his eyes first met hers he recognized her. The effect of her gaze instantly rooted him to the foundations of the earth. His teacher had to drag him away scolding him to stay with the group.  As he looked back over his shoulder with tears staining his school blazer he knew he would never marry, have children or love anyone but her.

He has been coming back to see her ever since the day he fell in lover with her in 1934. He always goes on Sunday and sits on the bench across from her.  With twenty feet of highly polished hard oak floor between them, he would sit and think and try to remember. She had that effect on him. She whispered from behind the veil of receding years of time past, of meeting, parting and many goodbyes. None of them were ever a happy farewell. Now at 91 Nilson could feel another goodbye coming for him.

“Who is she?”  The young voice came from behind him.  With out turning around he answered.

“Lady Hamilton.”

The young lady came around the bench and sat next to him. “She is very beautiful in a surprisingly modern way. I think I remember an old movie about her, with Sir Laurence Olivier.”

“And Vivien Leigh, yes I have seen it too.” Nilson looked at the young lady. “Have we met?”

She squinted her pretty cornflower blue eyes, “I don’t think so. I just have that kind of face. Do you come here very often?”

“Every Sunday” He said looking back to the painting.


“That may be why I look familiar. We probably pass each other all the time. I come on Sundays also, to meet a friend.” She laughed. “He never shows up. I keep coming back, never the less hoping to meet him.”

“That is not a very nice young man to stand you up like that.”

“Oh he doesn’t know he is standing me up. You see, I don’t know his name. We haven’t met yet.”

Nilson looked back at the young lady. She was smiling like a thousand suns right into his eyes. It was almost blinding.

“My name is Emma….” She held out her hand.

“Pardon me Sir the museum is closing.”  Nielson turned to the guard. “It’s time to go home.”

“Oh of course, I was just talking to Emma here….” He turned to find she was gone.

“Sir?” The guard leaned down. “Are you alright?”

Nilson’s eyes darted around the gallery in momentary panic. And then he smiled. “Perfectly fine young man. Time to go home.”

As he walked toward the doors that lead into the enfiladed galleries beyond he looked back at the painting of Lady Emma Hamilton. She was glowing like a thousand suns.




Frederic Malle presents Portrait of a Lady by perfumer, Dominique Ropion who has created other perfumes for Malle including the famous Carnal Flower and Geranium Pour Monsieur. It is an inspired perfume that for me it goes beyond the bounds of its inspiration. This rose perfume when it touches the skin becomes a portrait of whoever is wearing it. Man or woman, young or old, it is a dark mysterious floating veil that billows off the skin revealing aspects of romance and danger that is rooted in a solid perfume past which looks forward to the modern age.



Like a great painting its opening is in layers, Skin warming clove, cinnamon with a light touch of raspberry that is not jam but leafy. These  are the first notes that create the under painting. The introduction of black currant gives the perfume an animalistic touch that echoes the notes of great old perfumes from the early years of the 20th century. French boudoirs littered with memories of randy romps on a velvet chaise lounge are hinted at by this dirty little note.  Rose is the dominating center of the painting here and never gives up its place as the imperial note, the masterly brush stroke that leads the perfume on.

The rose is born aloft through the central structure of the perfume by a gorgeous blend of sandalwood, and earthy patchouli. Mystery and glamour are added in here by a luscious smoky incense that darken the patina of this olfactory painting.

There comes in the dry down sumptuous amber that is highly polished with notes of white musk and a glaze benzoin bring golden hues to the final touches of what is now an impressionist portrait of the wearer. The perfume lingers now close to the skin and is not diminished in its mystery one single bit as it finally recedes into the past leaving your skin and your brain wanting to revisit the experience all over again. It possesses the grand silage and longevity of perfumes from a bygone era.

For me this is a wonder because in nature I love the smell of roses but in the perfume world they rarely move me. Here I find that the rose is truer than most and quite stunning. This is a portrait for the ages, a modern classic that whispers of the past and promises a glorious future for a long time to come.

Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton


I do want to thank Chase Roberts my go to Sales Associate to for Frederic Malle at Barney’s for pointing me toward this perfume. Without her guidance I would have passed this one right by. Chase is every inch a beauty and quite the portrait of a lady.




  1. her accent is crisp and like cut glass. we had quite forgotten. lovely post, lovely.

    • Thank you my dear. I thought about you a great deal when I was writing this post. You might say that you were one of my muses.

  2. …the Nile, your Nile!

  3. The best from Frederic Malle in my opinion! 🙂 Great review!

    • Thank you So much Sebastian! It is most assuredly at the top of the scale for me.

  4. A lonely man, a Museum, a Lady. Bravo, dear Lanier. Such a beauty. One wishes to be a lonely man, too. Just to feel that way. And I wish I get some Malle’s some day, too. Have a nice Sunday.

    • Jose, how lovely thank you so much! Hope you are having a great summer in Brazil!

  5. Fascinating review, but I personally found this perfume to be quite horrifying. The base! UURRGGH; nuclear strength from hell. So clingy, I just wanted to saw the lady’s arm off to get her AWaY from me!!!!!

    • I am laughing! Isn’t it funny how subjective scent can be? I feel that way about 1Million yet so many love it. Thank you so much for taking a peek at my post! A real treat to see you here.

      • I million should get the unanimous foul vote, surely: only morons like it (he shouted out, ‘subjectively’)

  6. What a too, too charming story, and elegant and luminescent cameo itself. Oh, and gosh and golly, the image of Ms Vivien Leigh is just *gorgeous*. Splendid work, Lanier, you have an artist’s eye and a fine heart.
    Now, may I be a pest and ask if you could drop me a line via email? I would say what I need to here in the comments but a particular *beguiling* friend of ours might see…he says mysteriously! I hope it’s no trouble.
    Warm regards, George

    • Why thank you dear George. You are kind and generous as always. Of course I will drop you a line…it is on its way as I type.

  7. Dearest Lanier
    How did your know?
    For pictures, especially those at The National Gallery talk to The Dandy all the time M. Norvins and I, for instance, have been in happy conversation for years. More painful are the last words that Lady Jane Grey is eternally whispering.
    A wonderful conceit dear friend and so true, because what marks out a great perfume, like great art is its ability to communicate. Some lesser scents just shout, but, and here I disagree with the estimable Ginza, POAL, seems to me to intense, frank, intimate and illuminating talk, pillow talk perhaps.
    Wonderful words.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • How did I know? A certain mysterious painting I saw in the Tower of London told me all about it. That one can hear from oil and canvas many voices and many stories. Ever since I met that gentleman I have been listening to the whispers in the museum. Thank you dear Dandy, a friend in London if ever there was one…and there is.

  8. Thank you, dear Lanier! You are a prince among men, a Marilyn Monroe among Mamie Van Dorens, a Keats among McGonnagals! I have responded in my inimitably gauche manner.
    A rose to you and a burst of song!

  9. “…among *McGonnagalls*…” One day I shall click my heel together and make typos no more! Feh.

  10. I always enjoy reading your stories, Lanier, but especially when you write them about perfumes I love.

    • Oh dear Undina you warm my heart on a foggy night with your lovely words.

  11. Oh dear me, I have been keeping this post aside especially for a rainy day, friend. You see, this perfume has fascinated me from the first moment that I read of it and yet no one has painted the essence of what I imagine it to be as you have. Well, that is no surprise! But it was a very fine gift, thank you. Isn’t it funny, as I have yet to smell or wear it but I really do think this might be “my” perfume once and for all?
    Gros Bisous,

    • How can I thank you for one of the sweetest notes I have ever received about a post? Thank you is just to small for how I feel. Okay…so Frederic Malle must be all over the South of France. Get thee to a perfumery Lady and smell The Lady I say!

  12. Thrilled to know Lady Emma and I have so much in common, what with the so many hundreds etc of hairline cracks . . . but shall hasten to the garden of Malle for a warm whiff of summer rose!

    • I have more cracks than you and Lady Emma…it’s what makes us beautiful..even up close. I hope you fall in love the perfume…and if not.. smell some of the others in the line like Lys Mediterranee…the “vampire” perfume I wrote about a while back… delicious!

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