Serge Lutens La Religieuse - A Truly Gentle, Dove-y Jasmine (2015) {Perfume Review & Musings}


The Fiancée of Jesus is Waiting on a December Evening - La fiançée de Jésus attend un soir de décembre © 2015 CHANT WAGNER

Humer le flacon

As you discover the scent of the imagined olfactory form of the nun by Serge Lutens, La Religieuse, you cannot help but think in the initial moments that the whiteness of jasmine was not invoked to symbolize virginal purity but rather the story of an aging nun towards the end of her path in life in the service of God.

The perfume is pretty, but it partakes of that external beauty found in the flowers of a monachal garden whose scent wafts into the rooms of a convent where the skin on the cheeks of the fiancée of Jesus is parchment-like and sallow. Freshness has left her face but it can still be found in her bright and soft eyes and in the petals of jasmine reflecting the light outside that are like caresses to her gaze...

The jasmine in La Religieuse is both vigorously underlined as animalic with a hint of decay and of the ruin of the body - and as breezy and light as the air circulating in the spring between the pleasant flowers of an inner couryard garden and the mossy stones of an ancient convent. There is this breathy nuance which makes you think of bad breath thanks to the nuance of a natural perfumery note, that of Jasminum Grandiflorum, I think - and there is also that very pretty, lighthearted jasmine note, which is playful and shy, like a child. The composition revolves around a tension, smelling like the presence of a very old and wise sister gifted with the smiling soul of a child.


The Advert for La Religieuse shows a stylized "cornette" as worn by the filles de la Charité de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul

In more technical terms, La Religieuse is a jasmine soliflore. If you compare it to Lutens's previous writings dipped in jasmine-scented amethyst ink, it is less dramatic and nocturnal than Sarrasins; it is less robustly solar and wholly sensual than A La Nuit - the latter an extrovert noon time perfume.

This is to my nose, a jasmine scent of the morn' but with enough storied complexity and soul to it - but also carnality - to let you guess that more is at work. The perfume of the night's enchantress has already waned. It's the trace of it we encounter here, a subtle reminder of its natural, forceful potency which now mixes with the delicacy of ether. There is perhaps expressed here a form of renunciation to the obvious sensuality of jasmine. The perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, who also works for Chanel, has worked on making the jasmine soft-spoken and desincarnated; it reminds me very much of the temperament of the gardenia perfume by Chanel for this transformation from a potentially venomous and fatal bloom into a sage, polished piece of ivory-work with a perfect sense of gentle balance. There seems also to be the murmur of a lemon-y magnolia.

A wisp of incense then directs our attention to the skies and the spiritual world, inviting us to meditate on what is left behind.

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