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  1. #1
    Dependent slpfrsly's Avatar
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    Default Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    This cropped up in another thread and I thought it might make for an interesting discussion.

    "Definition of masterpiece

    1 : a work done with extraordinary skill especially : a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement" - according to Merriam Webster, anyway.

    I'm relatively harsh in that I'm not sure any fragrance I've tried strikes me as 'a masterpiece'. There was a thread a few weeks ago asking to list 10/10 fragrances and I genuinely don't believe I've tried one to date.

    So, with no real expectations of where this thread could end up going, what constitutes a masterpiece in perfumery for you and what, if any, examples of such a fragrance do you think exist?
    “If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”
    Currently wearing: Aventus by Creed

  2. #2

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    All time favourites

    Bois du Portugal
    by Creed
    Aventus by Creed
    Heritage EdT by Guerlain
    Incident Diplomatique by Jovoy
    Cool Water (vintage) by Davidoff
    Eau Sauvage (vintage) by Christian Dior
    Chic For Men (original formulation) by Carolina Herrera
    Halfeti by Penhaligon’s
    French Lover by Frederic Malle
    Jubilation Man by Amouage
    Pour Monsieur by Chanel
    Currently wearing: Green Irish Tweed by Creed

  3. #3

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    The paradox is for me that 'masterpieces' usually contain a flaw, thus disqualifying them?

    Someone wrote once that if you deliberately set out to make a masterpiece, you will never finish.

  4. #4
    Basenotes Institution Danny Mitchell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    You all know POLO is a masterpiece.
    "Ducks eat for free at Subway."

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Italo Calvino once said, "A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say."

    A masterpiece must have this aspect. However, as Luca Turin once said, and with whom I agree completely, masterpieces must also have, 1. beauty; 2. ideas (does it smell interesting?); 3. novelty; 4. skill (has it been worked out technically?); and 5. some sort of working agreement with the environment.

    I can think of about 100 or so perfume masterpieces, ie. all of the classic Guerlains, Chanels.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    A masterpiece is an exceptionally skillful expression of an idea, one that is effectively peerless (either through the singular brilliance of its conceit or through the singular brilliance of its execution).

    I've tried a number of them. A few of the Guerlains qualify; they're dazzling in their originality and complexity.

    Among niche creations, Tauer L'Air du Désert or Tauer Au Couer du Désert or something like L'Artisan Seville a l'Aube all fall in that category for me.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Skill, artistry, historical significance, timeless enduring quality.

    Disregarding personal taste ....

    Chypre De Coty.
    No 5.
    Kouros.
    Knize Ten.
    Egoiste.
    Eau Sauvage.
    Patou Pour Homme.
    Jicky.
    Shalimar.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    For me it’s real simple, a fragrance I feel confident wearing during any season and for any occasion -

    Azzaro Pour Homme
    Polo Green
    Gucci Pour Homme (2003)
    Aramis Havana
    ​"Top 9" handsome autumn November contenders to remember -

    9) Polo Modern Reserve
    8) Herrera for Men (Vintage)
    7) Aramis Tuscany per uomo
    6) One Man Show (Vintage)
    5) Esencia Loewe pour homme
    4) Polo Green (Cosmair)
    3) Aramis Havana
    2) Michael Kors for Men
    1) Azzaro Pour Homme (Vintage)



    “Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.”
    ― Mark Twain
    Currently wearing: Cigar by Rémy Latour

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scents And Sense View Post
    Italo Calvino once said, "A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say."

    A masterpiece must have this aspect. However, as Luca Turin once said, and with whom I agree completely, masterpieces must also have, 1. beauty; 2. ideas (does it smell interesting?); 3. novelty; 4. skill (has it been worked out technically?); and 5. some sort of working agreement with the environment.

    I can think of about 100 or so perfume masterpieces, ie. all of the classic Guerlains, Chanels.
    RogueMousse Illuminee.jpg

    I think Manuel Cross hit all five with with this beauty.
    Currently wearing: Moods Uomo by Krizia

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    It's a tricky term, masterpiece, that seems to rule out the possibility of blind luck. I feel like I might need the backstory on a fragrance to help justify the claim.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by slpfrsly View Post
    what constitutes a masterpiece in perfumery for you
    Patou Pour Homme
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    I feel like defining masterpiece in a very open way like "an outstanding work or achievement" is a little too open, and to your point, brings it in line with a question like "what's your personal 10/10"?

    I rather like definitions along the lines of, "The greatest work, as of an artist. Also called masterwork."

    There's certainly still subjectivity in there, but the parameters are a little more defined and tied to things like the perfume's novelty (at its time), influence (artistically and culturally), technical merit, and overall artistic impression.

    To relate it to another form of art, there are lots of excellent movies out there, but there are might be a dozen masterpieces in a century. The Godfather, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Kane, that kind of thing. They might not be my favorites, but there are valid reasons for them to be called masterpieces regardless.

    Bringing it back to perfumes, for me that leaves a list that includes Chanel No. 5, Kouros, Jicky, Polo, Acqua di Gio, Shalimar, Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, Chypre Coty, Angel, Aramis...scents that set the tone for decades of perfumery.
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."
    Currently wearing: Pasha by Cartier

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    A masterpiece is what you make it IMO.
    <div class="bnsotd"><b>Currently wearing:</b> <a href="ID26148387.html"><img src="http://www.basenotes.net/photos/products/33/26148387-7393.jpg"> Carven L'Eau Intense by Carven</a></div>

  14. #14

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    I'm not sure if a "masterpiece" requires such high skills and wether you can even judge them objectively.

    Talking about music, Nirvana's Nevermind album is considered to be a "masterpiece".
    Rolling Stone magazine put it into the 17th place of the 500 best albums of all time, and it's the number 1 of the 1990s.

    Was Kurt Cobain a great singer? In comparison to some tenors like Domingo or Pavarotti?
    Was he a great guitarist? In comparison to some guitarists like Vai or Satriani?

    I don't know... probably not.

    But he wrote great songs, put a lot of emotion into his music and touched the hearts of his listeners.

    I think that's what counts!

    And I see it the same way when smelling perfumes.

    it doesn't have to be the finest ingredients, it doesn't have to be perfectly blended.
    I even have a couple of batches of certain fragrances that just smell a little different than normal, one with a slightly "screechy" note that stands out and I like it a lot this way and and that's what makes it special to me. And what i may consider a masterpiece.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Danny Mitchell View Post
    You all know POLO is a masterpiece.
    Excellent man smell!
    Currently wearing: Vetiver by Guerlain

  16. #16
    Basenotes Institution Darjeeling's Avatar
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Danny Mitchell View Post
    You all know POLO is a masterpiece.
    Even though I'm not a fan, I'm prepared to accept this.

    In reference to that other thread, even though a lot of appreciation is subjective, my gut feeling is that for something to earn the accolade of masterpiece there has to be some degree of consensus and for it to have stood the test of time. Not sure how much time is necessary, but we need to get over the initial period of hype that can accompany popular new scents and for its qualities to shine for a period after its novelty has worn off.
    1. No, never blind buy (I do, but do as I say, not as I do. I'm taking no responsibility for your fragrance gambling).
    2. Get them both. You're a Basenoter and you know you're going to end up purchasing them both eventually.
    3. Yes, it has been reformulated.
    4. Looking for a signature scent? You've come to the wrong place.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by hednic View Post
    Patou Pour Homme
    That's a good example
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by JON RODGERS View Post
    Skill, artistry, historical significance, timeless enduring quality.

    Disregarding personal taste ....

    Chypre De Coty.
    No 5.
    Kouros.
    Knize Ten.
    Egoiste.
    Eau Sauvage.
    Patou Pour Homme.
    Jicky.
    Shalimar.
    Many of the iconic ones from notable houses like those above would warrant a 'masterpiece' title.
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by N.CAL Fragrance Reviewer View Post
    That's a good example
    I assume you own a bottle also?
    Remember that while it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the content of a post - criticizing the poster is not.
    Mean spirited, nasty, snide, sarcastic, hateful, and rude individuals on Basenotes don't warrant or deserve my or other Basenoters' acknowledgement or respect.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Can someone consider something a masterpiece, a holy grail, and overrated?

  21. #21

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bavard View Post
    Can someone consider something a masterpiece, a holy grail, and overrated?
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."
    Currently wearing: Pasha by Cartier

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiveJazz View Post
    I hate it when this happens to me.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Danny Mitchell View Post
    You all know POLO is a masterpiece.
    Indeed ... it's the hole what does it !!!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheik Yerbouti View Post
    Borrowing my answer from the above thread. Reposted below.


    "I'd say when a fragrance is not just loved by a majority of users, but also admired by other perfumers and has achieved such inspiration as to become historically significant that its preservation is important, then is it a masterpiece.

    Examples

    Houbigant Fougère Royale
    Chypre de Coty
    Guerlain Shalimar
    Chanel No. 5
    Dior Eau Sauvage


    Once we move into more modern decades, this term gets more widely abused as most things that have had a huge impact on others become derided since the trends they started are still fresh in the memory, therefore lacking the softening effect of nostalgia on our temperament. Still, if you look at the industry praise thus far and the overall acclaim from users both casual and hardcore, some examples may begrudgingly include:


    Kouros by YSL
    Dior Poison
    Angel by Thierry Mugler
    Calvin Klein ck One
    etc."


    I'd probably say if trends continue, we may be also begrudgingly acknowledging that scents like Creed Aventus are also masterpieces for literally shaping the landscape of the fragrance market in their wake, combined with the huge controversy and praise they receive.
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  25. #25

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Very few ones did reach so far masterpiece levels according to strictly personal standards and it is according to these very standards would actually define a scent masterpiece as combining often either cutting edge or simply classic versatile, decent performance and sheer quality of notes/ingredients at once.

    If a fragrance along these lines ever existed seconding among the ones already mentioned and/or also adding:
    Knize Ten, Aramis Havana and most of the other Aramis fragrances mentioned, Chanel Antaeus, Caron pour un Homme as well as other Caron male/unisex classics, several classic Lutens too, Lubin Akkad and a few more Lubin evergreens along these lines, Houbigant clean cut releases including the basics like Fougere Royale and Duc de Vervins, a few classic Creeds as well, to name only very few

  26. #26

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    I think these are masterpieces (original versions):

    Mitsouko
    Jicky
    Chanel No. 5
    Tabac Blond
    Youth Dew
    Opium
    Iris Silver Mist

    For something to be considered a masterpiece, I'd say technical and artistic merit would be key elements. Endurance and legacy are also relevant but unfortunately those are often influenced by extrinsic factors such as marketing.
    Currently wearing: Infusion d'Iris by Prada

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Gengis Khan and Green Irish Tweed come to mind, among others.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Dior Homme, Dior Homme Intense, & Dior Homme Parfum.
    Currently wearing: Prada L'Homme by Prada

  29. #29

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    Quote Originally Posted by PartySnake View Post
    Dior Homme, Dior Homme Intense, & Dior Homme Parfum.
    I'd carefully add Fahrenheit EDT and Fahrenheit Parfum.


  30. #30

    Default Re: Perfumery and the existence of a 'masterpiece'.

    My gut reaction is that you can't really tell whether any piece of art is a masterpiece without the benefit of time. It takes at least a few years of reflection to see what endures. Not a coincidence, I don't think, that so many of the names in this thread have been around so long. Recent strong bets seem like LDDM and Mem, but who knows?

    Curious if any of the oud heads think any of the oud-based fragrances and attars that have really exploded into the consciousness in the past five years by houses like Areej le Dore, Bortnikoff, Sultan Pasha, etc. are headed toward masterpiece status?




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