Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Womanity and the Fragrant Grotesque



The Nightmare. henri Fuseli, 1781.

The Nightmare. (Henri Fuseli, 1781).

Grotesque is a word I associate with nineteenth-century aesthetics,  though of course it has born long before that. The romantic grotesque achieves harmony in opposition. It provokes simultaneous attraction and revulsion, empathy and disgust. Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo (a.k.a., hunchback of Notre  Dame) is often offered as an example of a grotesque character. I see the strange, uneven, digressive tone-shifting style of Les Miserables and Moby Dick as gorgeous narrative grotesques.

Incongruity  makes the grotesque appealing, even seductive. In my own private taxonomy of perfumes, I classify certain hybrid blends as grotesque. Think of beautiful beasts like Iris Ganache (more about that hereand Womanity. Like the pink and metal-chained bottle, the Womanity fragrance plays with contrasts. The top layer? Figgy, buttery. It’s the butter of certain white florals. It’s a fig with a sweetness akin to overripe melon. Credit has been given to a caviar note for providing Womanity‘s disturbing edge. I would never have guessed that  on my own. I detect at the base that bitter, dirty, dried-blood metallic  accord (minus the fecal) from Sécrétions magnifiques. In comparison to that playful niche outlaw, Womanity is quite tame. But line her up with the rest of the bottles at the department store, and she’s a force to be reckoned with. The sweet, fruity fig notes fade out after fifty minute or so,  but the base notes have preternatural tenacity. I clocked over 20 hours. Close to the skin, Womanity wears chilly, slightly dirty, quite metallic. Not an easy scent,  but in a “Would You Rather…?”, I would select Womanity over something more generically sweet and pretty.

Image source;

Image source;


7 thoughts on “Womanity and the Fragrant Grotesque

  1. I love Womanity – in fact, I will wear it today, in your honor!

  2. Perfect example of the ‘fragrant grotesque’! – popcorn on steroids! Me, I do not care for the original and can only take the more anodyne Le Gout du Parfum version with extra fig chutney sauce in it. Or something.

  3. HI, Vanessa! Popcorn on steroids indeed. Well put, as always. I have to give the Goût du parfum a try.

  4. I’m afraid Womanity is the only perfume to actually make me physically gag and feel nauseous. Naturally, it has amazing longevity. We all know nature’s law on longevity: the proportion of dislike for a scent is equal to the number of hours longevity it has. I tell you, I scrubbed and SCRUBBED at womanity. It smells like mermaids’ knickers.

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