Small object of desire #3 – Musk

Musk n. a substance secreted in the glandular sac under the skin of the abdomen of the musk deer, having a strong odor and used in perfumery. 

The musk deer has influenced love and fashion, kings and queens have ruled with musk, muslims call it the smell of heaven, affecting religion and history and giving the world Chanel and Dior but that’s not his intention. He just wants to get noticedDavid Attenborough

That last line, intoned in Attenborough’s distinctive voice made me laugh. 

Apparently, no other natural substance has such a complex aroma and has so many contradictory descriptions. It is often described as animalic, earthy and woody. Some even say it’s like the smell of a baby’s skin. 

I love wearing fragrance and my taste tends towards the spicy, subtly musky end of the scale. For that reason I will happily wear some fragrances designed for men. As long as they are well made, of course. I can’t bear sweet, girly or in-your-face scents. Thankfully, most perfume makers use synthetic musk these days so Bambi doesn’t have to bite the dust just because I want to smell nice. Phew!

Speaking of which, Patrick Suskind’s tour de force of literary brilliance, Perfume, a book some filmmakers claimed was unfilmable, seems to have left its mark on popular culture in the form of advertising. The publisher of the book in turn, seems to have borrowed from the popular culture of yore for the cover of the book. Consider these images:

The book cover featuring a detail from Antoine Watteau’s 1715 painting, Jupiter and Antiope;

a poster for the movie;

and Yves Saint Laurent’s notorious advert for the perfume Opium featuring the rather edible looking Sophie Dahl;

Hmm…the red hair, the alabaster skin, the women lying in some kind of stupor or murdered…..

Evidently, there is some sort of through line here, linking art to literature to advertising.

What goes around comes around indeed. 


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