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Baroque between the WarsAlternative Style in the Arts, 1918-1939$
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Jane Stevenson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198808770

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198808770.001.0001

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Flowers in the Abstract

Flowers in the Abstract

(p.277) 16 Flowers in the Abstract
Baroque between the Wars

Jane Stevenson

Oxford University Press

Before the 1920s perfume was strongly encoded. Musky scents and tropical ‘heavy florals’ were associated with prostitution, oriental perfumes with decadence and Catholicism, and light floral scents such as rose and lavender with virtuous femininity, while citrus colognes were unisex. Blending perfumes was held to be decadent in itself. The discovery of synthetic aldehydes increased the range of possible scents, and perfumers began experimenting. The modernization of perfume began with mixing scents from different semiotic categories, thus moving from naturalism to abstraction. ‘Chanel No. 5’ was the most successful of these new inventions, and was consciously conceived of as a synthetic creation.

Keywords:   perfume, semiotics, aldehyde, Chanel, abstraction

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