Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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To which Michelangelo responds, “You’re right. I’ll beat it some more.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that quote: beauty is given birth only when we learn to love and respect the grubbiest details of the mediums we are working in—whether we be painters or writers, gardeners or animal handlers, artists of the world at large or artists of the everyday. I think perfume lovers instinctively know this—and so do the niche perfumers who know us.Which is why they give us unusual fragrances like Jacomo #02, trusting that there will be an appetite for them—and in my case, at least, they are right. 

“Your wall has to be sound; if it crumbles your fresco goes with it. Check for saltpeter; the slightest patch and your paint will be eaten up. Avoid the sand that has been taken from too near the sea. Your lime should be old. I’ll show you how to use a trowel to get a full smooth surface. Remember, plaster has to be beaten with the least possible amount of water, to the consistency of butter.”

Michelangelo did as he had been instructed, but complained:

“Granacci, I want to draw with a pen, not a trowel.”

Granacci replied sharply:

“An artist has to be the master of the grubbiest detail of his craft. If you don’t know how to do the job how can you expect a plasterer to get you a perfect surface?”

How is it that we come to love fragrances that aren’t the least bit pretty?

I suppose it’s for the same reason that gardeners can’t wait to get their hands in the dirt—and horse lovers prefer puttering around in the barn, mucking out stalls and cleaning tack, to being at home. Or why we can only watch so many dreamily romantic films in a row before we clamor for something grittier and rawer, something more daring and visceral.

No matter how much we cultivate beauty in our lives, we still have an appetite for the primal things that tug at our primitive nature. And in that regard, I’ve developed a craving for the very Play-Doh-ish, clay-chalk-and-leather smell of Jacomo #02 eau de parfum.

One of the trio of scents in the brand’s Art Collection series, Jacomo #02 is certainly the most literal of the three in its representation of art. And from a conceptual standpoint alone, it’s fascinating: the way it bundles together scents that represent the raw components of art in such a way that they become the subject of its olfactory portrait. But more importantly, it’s compelling on the physical level. My nose loves this scent! My heart, when it has tired of conventional beauty, seeks it out. Wearing it is like being in an artist’s studio, surrounded by the smells of modeling clay, canvases, chalk, and gum Arabic.

Jacomo #02 takes me back to that period in my youth when I was infatuated with Michelangelo and read everything I could get my hands on about him, including Irving Stone’s massive, biographical novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy. Passage after passage in the novel describes Michelangelo’s reverence for the building blocks of his preferred art form, sculpture. (“The smoky-smelling marble dust smelled as sweet in his nostrils as sugar on the tongue.”) Painting, however, is a different matter. In a scene depicted at the beginning of the book, when Michelangelo is thirteen and his older friend, Granacci, is helping him learn the ropes of fresco-making at the famous studio of Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, where they are both apprentices, he must be taught an appreciation for the rudimentary work involved in painting the wet-plaster murals. Granacci tells him:

Fragrance notes for Jacomo #02 eau de parfum include bergamot, amaryllis, tonka bean, vanilla, suede accord, amber, and patchouli.

It can be purchased from the Jacomo Paris website, the Henri Bendel boutique in New York, as well as from, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $69.

My sample came from a fellow perfume lover and friend.

The Agony and the Ecstasy, copyright © 1961 by Doubleday & Co., Inc. (Signet Books editon, New York, 1987, pp. 55-56).

Image, top, of Michelangelo's panel, "The Creation of Man," from his mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel can be found various places on the Internet; image of Irving Stone's novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, is from Google Books; bottle image of Jacomo #02 is from, where the fragrance can be purchased.

JACOMO #02: Art Before Beauty…

November 3, 2010