Tag Archives: Cars

20th Century Art in Scents – 1917

If you missed it: Chapter 1 – launch of the perfume L’Origan de Coty and Art Nouveau

By 1905, when L’Origan de Coty stroke a scented crescendo of the Art Nouveau age, this art movement had already been at its deathbed for a few years. Airplanes, fast steam engines, colossal ships, electric vacuum cleaners, radio transmissions, automobiles: they all promised a faster and more technologically exciting future. Art Nouveau had ceased being nouveau. New art movements were mushrooming faster than an art history student can learn about them today. Of course, at that time, nobody but a select few could appreciate analytical cubism or first attempts at geometrical abstraction, but those select few were the ones who were making artists into big names. To surprise and charm that elite group, a talented artist had to be disruptive, revolutionary, and – preferably – incomprehensible to the bourgeois masses.

There were also artists then who wanted to make new, but understandable art, something that would incorporate “times a-changing” dynamism and also… be useful. Like, think of furniture. Or architecture. Or wallpaper!

Most people don’t know the artists’ names today. Was it a conscious sacrifice to forsake fame for steady income there and then? I don’t have an answer.  Their names may not be known as well as those of Picasso, Matisse, or Kandinsky, but we all know their work. We know Palais de Tokyo or Empire State bulding, even if the names of their architects need to be googled up. We see Art Deco typefaces in logos, ads, texts, but we don’t know who invented them:


We may sit in a chair like this at any West End theatre (or think of a theatre district in your city) unaware of who was its designer.


From the early 1900s till 1912 Art Nouveau and Art Deco (it didn’t have a name then) co-existed peacefully, but the Autumn Salon of 1912 saw a clash of modern and uber-modern. The Salon housed Cubists, Futurists, and Dadaists (whose art caused an explosive political debate on the freedom of expression) but was decorated by the department store Printemps in what in ten years would become known as Art Deco.

Art Nouveau was effectively wiped out from the agenda of the future, yet no new scents had been offered!

It is easy to see the contrast between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Anyone could spot the difference between Alfons Mucha (very well known) and George Barbier (known to Art Deco fans only) or the shift to simplicity from an Art Nouveau ceiling dome to that of Art Deco!



Cars can be an even better illustation of both technological and stylistic changes. Cars were highly visible, very desirable, and prohibitevely expensive. Perhaps, it was the automotive industry that delivered that final push to perfumers that made them think of new scents.

This is a Pic-Pic (Swiss-made) of 1911. It is exactly the “horseless carriage” type that we may find difficult to call a “car”. It is the epitome of Art Nouveau style.


Same year as PicPic, Delaunay Belleville, a French marque, was producing their luxury (Russian Tzar favourite) model that was already taking the shape of a car:


Yet, these babies could only be seen when the tzar or French Prime Minister would go out, and the more massively produced models were still angular and awkward, like Ford T of 1912 (US), the most affordable car then (at roughly $25K in today’s money). Stylistically, it is ahead of PicPic in the proper car category, but it does not herald a new design era (and while PicPic of 1911 could go 70 kmh, Ford maxed out only 60)


And then suddenly, just as the WWI broke out and millions of people marched to their death, the world was stunned by totally new designs that owe everything to Art Deco artists working on streamlined geometrical shapes and sleek dynamic lines. Of course these designs had been in the works long before the war, but the timing of their launch still bevilders me.

This is Richet-Schneider of 1915 (France).

IMG_20190706_165537 - копия

And this is a new, war-like model from the luxury maker Delaunay-Belleville that they launched in 1914 and were producing until 1917.

IMG_20190706_165751 - копия

Can you imagine that ladies in the back of PicPic (1911) and Delaunay-Belleville (1917) would wear the same perfume? So, finally, at the end of the WWI, a new scent arrived.

Chypre de Coty – 1917


It was based on 4 natural ingredients: patchouli, bergamot, labdanum, and oak moss, and has become a defining scent for modern perfumery.

Together, they produced dry and mossy scent with – as a connoisseur would say – amberly warmth.

The scent was still natural, but much more “serious” than the oriental flowers of L’Origan. It was a perfect transition from Mucha to Barbier.

You may notice that Chypre bottle is very similar to L’Origan’s one. Yes, Coty excelled in scents but their marketing sucked. This Art Deco revolution in aromas fell flat in sales.

Two years later (1919) Guerlain rolled out Mitsouko, with a fruity note on top of the Chypre base, and it became such a success that they would keep making it until today.


Mitsouko was packaged in strict accordance with Art Deco guidelines and positioned as women’s fragrance, which didn’t stop Charlie Chaplin from becoming a life-long fan.

And yet, by the time Mitsouko hit the market, new trends had already been shaping and shaking the very foundations of European societies.

The Great War was over, but its echo was still heard very clearly.

Women had to fit into men’s roles – and even trousers – during the war, and they were not coming back to the inconvenient pre-war designs. Scarcity of textiles shortened hemlines and streamlined cuts. Ironically, cloth deficit did a lot of progressive re-educational job that Art Deco fashion designers would have to do otherwise. Men were getting bolder and experimenting as well, especially with adding colour to their everyday wardrobe. A Russian magazine of 1917 summarised the conservative fear of the changing morals and fashion in this caricature, capped “in not so distant future”, in which a man and woman switch roles. I am sure it was not meant to be prophetic.


When Chypre de Coty was making its first steps, Marcel Duchamp scandalised the art market by his attempt to put a urinal in an exhibition. By 1919, when Mitsouko came out in all its glory, cubism had become mainstream (many believed it was already a thing of the past). Leading-edge art was half way out of representational or logical. It was time to start looking for a new scent; a scent that would go beyond a cheerful commemoration to the death of Art Nouveau and the rise of Art Deco; a scent for the fast approaching Roaring Twenties.

Two years after Mitsouko, this scent, one of the few brands in the history of perfumery that weren’t about the past but aimed at and defined the future, came to market.

I am sure you’ve already guessed right.

The next chapter is about Chanel No.5 of 1921.

Tags are the mirror of the soul; and a car made with fur

In today’s world, it is not the eyes. It’s tags!


So, looking in the mirror of my tags, it seems that I like writing about art and its history with a dash of humour, illustrating this with photographs, and providing inspiration.

Does it reflect my personality or my soul?

Well, it does as a mirror with a built-in Photoshop. It is a doctored image of me.

I write about art, and many believe art is the mirror in which the observers see themselves, not the author.

It is not always true, but it is especially valid for Contemporary Art, where the objective is to jump-start your brain into thinking along its own neural lanes, not the pathways that the author traveled along when creating the piece.

This giant street art mural is a very good illustration of the idea:


When I say my image is doctored by the tags, I mean that I am a Russian, so, in the eyes of many, I need to love vodka and the luxury of Dolce&Gabbana studded with crystals. I don’t, but it is not right that my tag mirror turns a blind eye the subject!  I need to remedy this immediately. And I will start with luxury, opulence, and the infinitely-platimun lifestyle of super-rich Russians, encapsulated in a single object. 

Creating luxurious lifestyle is a form of art, don’t you think?  I just hope I am not deviating too much from the general theme of my blog, which happens to be among the recommended ones on the subject of art (thank you, WordPress!)


Some may say it is not art, but pornography, and PETA activists will probably faint with indignation at the images I am about to show.

Yes, this car’s body was made of fiberglass, and then covered by leather. The leather was treated in a very special way, so you can wash the car just as you’d do, were it steel.  The exterior leather is covered by lifetime warranty. Even the car’s engine is wrapped in leather, but the technology is high-temperature and high-tech, so don’t worry. The outside and inside decoration is done by hand, by an artist.

The engine compartment and the trunk are sparkled with Swarovski crystals.

You have the most expensive fur furnishings inside. I can’t call it fur finish. Not in this car. It is fur start.

One million euro, and it is yours.

Beware of passengers with fur allergies, they may scratch the car from the inside. To protect the car against PETA, the owner is issued a free gun with a corresponding license to kill and then use the skin of activists for repairs of any damage caused by them to the exterior.

Welcome to the art of crazy luxury. If you are religious, next time you go to church, please make sure a candle is lit for the unfortunate guy who crashes into this automobile. Neither the guy’s insurance, nor his life would cover the cost of repairs, ever.

Now, would you be so kind to share the adjectives that were rushing to your mind while you rummaged through the car photos? I’d love to hear them, and please do not censor yourself. Be frank, be loud: I am not aware of kids reading this blog. 

Thank you, the Daily Post, for inspiration!

“I want to be the best in the world”

I encountered this car in a quiet street  in Fitzrovia. Luxurious opulence. Opulent luxury. I though, who was dumb enough to demonstrate his small willie inferiority complex so openly?

Number One

A Protestant would rather die than even sit in this car. So, Swiss bankers were not even considered. A Russian oligarch? A Russian would go for a black car. A Ukrainian would go for a white one. That left me with the only viable option, really. An Arab.

It turned out I was not the first to ask this question. Google knows this car.

What came as a surprise was the sum paid for the Number “1” on the license plate by the car owner (who was 25 years old at the time).

Let me present Saeed Khouri from Abu Dhabi. Of why he paid an astounding £7,100,000 ($10.7 million) for it in 2008, Khouri commented:

“I bought it because it’s the best number… I bought it because I want to be the best in the world”.

Khouri’s cousin, Talal, has a similar passion for number plates. He paid £3,470,000 for the registration “5” in 2007 (source)

I love this Arab mentality. The best man in the world? Easy. You don’t have to be Leonardo da Vinci. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein. You don’t even have to be the first man in space, for god’s sake. You can become the best by buying the number “1” for you car.

This is why this culture can not produce geniuses and is largely useless. It can’t move the mankind forward. People don’t have to invent, work hard, be creative. The best Arab man is the one who resides at Hyde Park One and has a “1” on his license place.

I just hope that Arabic culture is NOT ALL like this. I really do. For its own sake.

I am sure that this guy is at about 5 handshakes from me now. That’s kinda theory that Facebook has proven some time ago.

Let’s try to reach this guy, somehow. Let’s tell him he’s a disgrace of the human race. Perhaps, there are still some healthy neurons in his mind that can connect into a simple thought: this Rolls Royce is not just vulgar. It is indecent.