Top notes : artemisia, mint, green notes, peach and bergamot; Middle notes: carnation, patchouli, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, cedar and rose; Base notes: leather, sandalwood, amber, musk and oakmoss.
The inimitable Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies brought this 1982 release to my attention and kindly sent me a sample when I expressed interest. I’m always on the lookout for interesting green fragrances which are more than simply light and fresh: Niki de Saint Phalle fits the bill.
It’s funny, I can have trouble with powdery perfumes but the thin veil of green powder here feels just right. Truthfully, it doesn’t smell high-end but it does have an old-school vibe about it which I find appealing.
There is a tension between the tart greenness and the spring florals which works. It may have come out in the early 80s but it really belongs to the 70s – the era of the green chypre. This genre seems to be a thing of the past, though if the aquatic trend can make a comeback, anything is possible.
Niki de Saint Phalle does smell of another age and not as classy as No 19 say, but it does have an individual charm. There’s an uncompromising sour note in there that is refreshing and wakes up the senses. For someone so tired of the relentless sweetness in perfumery these days, I find it a welcome palate cleanser.
It will please those who are fond of galbanum; that chlorophyll-packed note found in Jacomo’s Silences, with which NdSP shares a kinship. The base is oakmoss-style chypre heaven and feels like a carpet of smooth moss under your bare feet. There’s also a very nice touch of ambery warmth. During this final stage, I inhale almost to the point of dizziness.
I found it really interesting and inspiring to read about the woman herself, while trying her fragrance. Niki de Saint Phalle was an artist who worked in a number of media. After suffering a nervous breakdown, she was encouraged to pursue her love of painting as a form of therapy. Her “Shooting Paintings” of the early 1960s were bags of paint in human form covered in white plaster which she shot to create the image. She went on to make work which explored the female archetypes and women’s place in society.
In part inspired by Gaudi, she purchased some land in Tuscany to create a monumental sculpture park. This was 20 years in the making and The Tarot Park eventually opened in 1998. It looks like a surreal wonderland with her huge colourful works interspersed amongst the greenery of the trees and shrubs.
It seems fitting that her fragrances is intense, uncompromising and striking, like de Saint Phalle and her art.
Do you have any interesting green fragrances to recommend? Have you tried Niki de Saint Phalle?
24 responses to “Niki de Saint Phalle by Niki de Saint Phalle ”
Ooh, Tara, now you’ve gone and done it! I absolutely ADORE Niki de Saint Phalle – I see it as Piguet Bandit’s younger, more gently raised sister! 😉 Green chypres were where I lived for most of my adult life, and so..roll ’em out: Silences, Bandit (in my top three), Cabochard, Givenchy III, Calandre, Coriandre, YSL Y, no. 19 and… 😉 Thank you so much for reminding me I really need to wear it today – so I shall!
Love the idea of it being Bandit’s more gently raised sister!
So many wonderful greens you’ve listed there. I’ve been curious about Givenchy III for the longest time. I don’t know if it’s even still available. Enjoy wearing Niki de Saint Phalle today. I bet it suits you beautifully.
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I had a decant of Niki de Saint Phalle, which is exactly as you describe in every detail. Sadly it was too palate cleansing and retro in style to work for me and I passed it along, but there again I sense I have a higher sweetness threshold and a lower one for galbanum!
I must say I was fascinated to learn those other facts about Niki de Saint Phalle’s life – the bags of paint in human form and the quirky and wonderful Tarot Park. She sounds delightfully bonkers!
PS That bottle is a work of art too! I had never seen it before.
Yes, it’s great that the bottle was worthy of her.
It’s not a people-pleaser so I can well understand you not taking to it. Galbanum isn’t an easy wear.
Wasn’t she a fascinating character? Surely ahead of her time.
I am not into galbanum either but have discovered in these last couple of weeks that it makes a delightful moisturiser ingredient. A real last minute hag saver.
I found the essential oil ( I was trying to revive some old Grey Flannel) which failed miserably but then on a whim I added some drops to a frankincense skin cream I had made and voila – some of the ravage was momentarily covered. In perfumes, even in my beloved 19, the galbanum is a stage I have to kind of suffer through.
Who knew? What a great discovery. I like galbanum in theory more than in practice. It’s a tricky one.
And raw it’s even trickier.
Actually I now recall we tried some of the raw stuff at Perfume Lovers London and it was potent.
weird. salady. resiny. verging on really quite unpleasant. and yet i am getting slightly addicted to the smell of my night moisturizer…
It’s funny how sometimes those aromas which repel us at first can become almost addictive.
I like Niki de Saint Phalle and occasionally I put it on from my mini bottle but more than the actual perfume itself, I love the bottle, especially the one with two colourful snakes on top of the cap. 😀 I love her quirky illustrations and sculpture and I used to have a book about her and her work. I wonder what happened to it…
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How nice to hear you had a book about her. I think she was amazing. I hope you turn it up.
The snakes bottle is a riot.
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Woo HOO!~ Tara, thanks firstly for the mention and secondly for reviewing one of my all time favourite fragrances. It’s getting harder and harder to find that spritz bottle in the 60ml so I have bought about a litre of the fragrance in splash bottles and will decant. The perfume is exquisite but I’ve run out sadly, it came in an incredible bottle with two snakes facing off and entwined.
My favourite of the Niki de Saint Phalle work are the grandmothers, enormous fat colourful women who looked like they could engulf you with a hug and face off any baddies or night horrors.
Her sense of colour was extraordinary.
Portia, I’ve seen the parfum bottle with the snakes on top and it’s wonderful. At least you have plenty of the edt.
I did come across pics of the grandmothers but didn’t know that’s what they’re called. Fabulous.
Yes, her eye for colour was something else.
HI Tara, I haven’t ever tried any Nicki fragrances. Will need to try some green notes in future your description entices me. I am constantly amazed by the number of perfumes out there.
I’m yet to find my perfect green, Anna Maria, but it’s fun exploring the genre which is perfect for spring.
Yes, there’s so much out there.
Green is a tough one for me, and it tends to come with (sour) roses… Vintage wise I seem to only just, and very slowly, be letting in the odd 1980s perfume thanks to some lovely ‘vintage-hos’. Unfortunately, even 80s perfumes are highly collectible these days.
I remember quite liking PG papyrus de Ciane, did you try that one? And then Sycomore wears green with smoky woods on me, I do love that kind of ‘green’.
“Inhaling to the point of dizziness” is such a great phrase, I might borrow it some time, I certainly know I do that a lot, hehe.
Borrow away! It’s great when you find a aroma you can’t get enough of.
I haven’t knowingly tried Papyrus de Ciane so will get hold of a sample next time I can. I don’t get on with PG’s gourmand confections so I might have better luck with a green.
Love the phrase “vintage hos”. I don’t have the nerve to go down that route with the chance of paying a lot of money for something that might have turned. Great to have friends who are willing to share though.
I think this is one of those perfumes that I might like but I don’t want to play “vintage games”. Still I enjoyed reading your review: who knows, I might come across it one day and remember to try just because you found it interesting.
Besides No 19 and Silences, I really like DSH’s Vert pour Madame.
“Vintage games” sums it up so well. It’s total roulette. However, I don’t think going for NdSP is such a risk as it’s not that old and the prices on Ebay aren’t bad, if you wanted to go for it. Not advisable unsniffed of course!
I keep meaning to get hold of a selection of the green frags by DSH. I’m sure my HG is among them.
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