– a review of Etat Libe d’Orange’s ‘Divin’ Enfant’
You see them everywhere, such a pop culture staple they show up on postcards, bags, posters, coffee mugs, internet memes. Cherubs. Those two trouble-making Raphael angels peering up into the heavenly domain, wondering what fun they’re missing.
But in Renaissance iconography, there is no such thing as a simple ‘cherub’. All those lovely, rosy, plump babes come in two varieties, the Cherubim, who are mainly preoccupied with matters celestial and not much interested events down below, and….Putti, who also have wings and also are babes whose cheeks you want to pinch.
The Putti are only interested in worldly matters – such as getting into as much trouble as they possibly can. I’m in no position to determine whether the Putti were simply a pictorial metaphor for toddlerhood (although I suspect that’s the case, having survived two, if just barely), or simply a secular, philosophical counterpoint to the celestial Cherubim.
What I know is this: I have a thing for Putti. Something about them appeals to my sense of humor, or is it mischief?
Now, another kind of babe trouble lurks for the unsuspecting, only this trouble is an Etat Libre d’Orange perfume called ‘Divin’ Enfant’ (Divine Child), and this creature is no cherub, but all putto, all the time…
I know not a few perfumoholics who scorn the Etat Libre line for either creating that ultimate in <ahem> performance art perfume, Secretions Magnifiques, or else for cheeky, irreverent marketing and a penchant for iconoclasm – in their copy, their (stellar) artwork and even the juice itself.
Nevertheless, the fact is that Etat Libre d’Orange creates perfumes that are every bit as beautiful, as complex, and as arresting as anything at all else in niche perfumery.
This post-punk iconoclast happily dived into their line, enjoyed every minute and loved not a few. And in a fragrant world that has elevated itself in the collective mind as being above all else ‘haute’ (if not ‘haute-y’, or simply haughty!), with lofty inspirations and super-heated ad copy, it does wonders for my own internal perfumoholic bs-meter to come across a perfume house who makes no bones about their core philosophy, which I could sum up as:
Perfume should be…fun!
Enter this li’l Devil…Divin’ Enfant.
See those perfectly pink, pinchable cheeks? It’s the olfactory phrase – with all that might imply – of ‘Oh, Baby!’ Literally in this case, since the sweetest orange blossom you’ve ever had the pleasure to sniff bubbles forth like froth in a champagne glass, but this is no sultry siren awaiting her moment to lure you in, this is very much…Eau Baby, Eau! All insouciant, ebullient allure and innocence, it’s all you can do to restrain yourself to only being able to articulate vowel variations on a theme. That theme being…
How darling! How cute! How sweet! How utterly, totally adorable!
Adorable, yes, as all babies must be, and sweet, as they also must be or we’d surely eat them.
Don’t think that idea didn’t occur to me with Divin Enfant, since orange blossom – apparent from top to bottom – is soon joined in by a sweet, vanilla-tinged marshmallow, and go ahead. Shrug off your foibles and surrender to such charms. You might as well, since you’re feeling quite a bit fluffy yourself by now, with a grin on your face the width of the candy aisle, but who cares when sugar babies make you this happy?
Right at the instant when the perfumed permagrin is tattooed from one ear to the other, you sense ominous thunderclouds rumbling in the distance.
How can that be? This baby was eau so sweet and happy, exuding nothing at all but dimpled, rosy candied orange blossom charms when suddenly, what is this? Coffee and tobacco and leather, too?
Ah, yes. Remember, this enfant is divine…and those thunderous rumblings come ever closer as Divin Enfant pinches your cheeks and chews on your nose, as sweet and as alluring as ever, but this baby gets into all kinds of trouble, drinking your coffee as you look the other way, locating that clandestine stash of smash-glass-in-case-of-emergency cigarettes in the secret compartment of your handbag, chewing on the leather falls of that hand-braided flogger you snagged from a ‘friend’ last night that no one was ever, ever supposed to know about.
Naughty bébé, indeed! Or is it, come on, ‘fess up, you who are one naughty bébé?
It’s you. I know…
Right when you give up, right when every ounce of your ‘get up and go’ just got up and left, Divin’ Enfant sighs one last, spent sigh, a sweet baby’s breath of amber and musk, the far off vanilla tinges and that sublime orange blossom both fade away in the sunset hours (some very long time later), and…is out like a snuffed candle with that abrupt surrender to the inevitable all babies have – one second going at about 350 km/h, the next, sleeping sweet, cherubic dreams perched upon an amber moonbeam.
Divin’ Enfant is a putto and no cherub, despite all those angelic orange blossoms and that fluffy vanilla marshmallow. If I were to set an image to it, it would be Margo Nahas’ famous artwork used as the cover for Van Halen’s album, 1984 – that very worldly putto holding a cigarette in his hand that may (or may not!) be candy.
As it is, the best way to describe it would be either cutely subversive or else subversively cute, I’m not sure which.
Who cares? It’s fun.
In other words – one sweet little monster indeed!
Perfumer: Antoine Lie
Notes: Orange blossom, marshmallow, rose, coffee, tobacco, leather, amber, musk
Image: Leon Perrault, ‘Sleeping Putto’ (1882)
Disclosure: Sample provided by Anthony of NKDMan, who likely thought I forgot. I didn’t. But I’m very, very grateful!