Smelling Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles it's hard to believe this is a relatively young classic, only launched in 1962. It belongs right next to Tabu with its secrets, promises and raw sensuality. Tabu was created in 1932 and I can easily picture the women of that era wearing Bal à Versailles. This perfume possess a certain darkness I often associate with the 1930s.
As for fancy balls in Versailles, I'm sure a lot of perfume was involved to mask the unsavory smells of the era and its questionable hygiene. Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles could have done a marvelous job muting and taking over whatever was going on between the powdered wigs and layers of clothes. I'm not a big advocate of moderation in the use of most perfume, but this stuff should come with a warning label lest it takes over the entire ballroom, cling to the tapestries and wall paper and make the chandeliers shatter. It's that aggressive, that sexual and that good.
Bal à Versailles is decidedly animalic. It's civet in all its glory under piles upon piles of creamy flowers, powder and ambery resins. And then more civet. The carnality of Bal à Versailles feels to me less like the ornamental and gilded halls of the palace and far closer to the ceremonial masked orgy of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. That movie creeped me out beyond words and I still can't re-watch it. This Jean Desprez perfume can be just as menacing and oh-so-wrong. Especially if you wear it under the wrong circumstances. Honestly, I'm not sure what are the right circumstances for vintage Bal à Versailles, unless one's life have a gothic dark side and include sex rituals that require the use of elaborate masks. The rest of us will dab a tiny drop and revel in all the naughty things we might or might not do.
Notes (from Jean Desprez website): rosemary, orange blossoms, Cassia, Jasmine, Rose, Neroli, Bergamot, Bulgarian Rose, Lemon, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Lilac, Orris Root, Vetiver, Yiang-Yiang, Lily, Tolu Balsam, musk, Benjoin, Civet, Vanilla, Cedar, Resins.
This review was based on a vintage parfum de toilette bottle.
Don't miss Beth's wonderful review of Bal à Versailles on Perfume Smellin' Things.
Top image: a shot from Eyes Wide Shut (1999) theaspectratio.net .
Jean Desprez 1977 Bal à Versailles perfume ad from hprints.com.