Lingering impressions A Monet scent to wear

September 18, 1991|By N.Y. Times News

The flowers and gardens in Claude Monet's paintings, whose colors and sense of romance have touched art lovers for generations, inspired a perfume.

The fragrance, Les Fleurs de Claude Monet, is sold at The Baltimore Museum of Art, just the right sensual touch to the exhibit Claude Monet: Impressionist Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, which opens here Oct. 13.

The perfume is a blend of jasmine, iris, lily of the valley, white rose and daffodil, with a touch of lavender and an ambergris base.

The manufacturer and distributor of the French perfume, the Colber Group of Washington, sells it only in museum gift shops.

"I think it's very clever because you don't have to have a lot of investment" in advertising and store promotion, said Annette Green, executive director of the Fragrance Foundation, an industry group.

Bernard Alain Portelli, senior vice president of the Colber Group and developer of the perfume, acknowledged that cost was one reason to limit distribution to museums. But he also said part of the approach seemed obvious.

"When we have a name like that, Claude Monet, the idea of going to a museum is fairly easy," he said.

For three years the perfume had been sold only at the Monet Museum in Giverny, France, where the Impressionist lived. It is now sold in 32 American museums, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution and the Phillips Collection in Washington.

"I want to keep it kind of different and exclusive and connected to art," says Portelli. "I don't want to have a product that's too commercial."

Seven years ago, Portelli was working as a hairdresser and fashion designer in Paris when he met Jean Maizeret, a businessman who had just bought the marketing rights to the Monet name from the painter's estate.

"He thought it was a good investment, but he didn't know what to do with it," Portelli recalled. The two quickly came up with the idea of producing a fragrance.

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