"The Afternoon of a Faun" is the name of a French poem written by Stéphane Mallarmé between 1865 and 1867 and published in 1976 (thank you, Wikipedia). Mallarmé's poem inspired music by Claude Debussy and three ballets, the earliest (1912) by Vaslav Nijinsky who also cast himself as the lead. Looking at the packaging of Etat Libre d'Orange which uses the image above (Léon Bakst, Nijinsky in The Afternoon of a Faun) it's clear that this was also the inspiration for the perfume. It probably shouldn't surprise any of us that the original ballet was a cause of much scandal. The final scene sees the faun take a scarf stolen from a nymph to a rock, fondles it, and carefully lays it down flat before he lies down on top of the scarf, and thrusts his pelvis into it once. The review in Le Figaro used words such as "vile", Shamelessness" and "bestiality". This kind of makes one expect a perfume in the style of Etat Libre d'Orange's Sécrétions Magnifiques.
Thankfully, it's not.
I have to warn you, though, that the background story and Nijinsky's ballet are the most fascinating part of Faun. What perfumer Ralf Schwieger created for Etat Libre d'Orange is a perfectly nice genderless perfume that has a very cool vibe-- "cool" in the sense of temperature, and I think of it as very cobalt blue, though it's hard to explain exactly why. The Afternoon of a Faun opens up with the requisite ubiquitous bergamot note but starts developing before I get cranky about it. The cool and peppery light incense morphs into powder and that's my favorite part of Faun. The orris is quite abstract and almost sheer. It's more the idea of an orris-leather base than anything tangible, so leather fiends won't get their fix here (probably why I'm not in love).
That said, several wearings do make me fonder of this Etat Libre d'Orange perfume. It's pleasant, easy to wear and one can spray it to his or heart's desire without sending half the town to the nearest bomb shelter. I suspect that The Afternoon of a Faun with its cool and crisp personality will be a bigger compliment-getter for men, though the one I married is not impressed and only agreed to test it begrudgingly. The sillage is very modest and lasting power could stand to improve.
Notes: Bergamot, pepper, cinnamon, incense, rose, immortal flower, orris, jasmine, myrrh of Namibia, moss, leather, benzoin.
Etat Libre d'Orange - The Afternoon of a Faun will be launched in October (together with another perfume, Dangerous Complicity, which I'll review soon).
Léon Bakst, Nijinsky in The Afternoon of a Faun, 1912, artwork for the show's program.
Nijinsky as the Faun, 1912, photographed by Adolf de Meyer
George_Barbier- Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun, 1913.
George Zoritch in A Faun's Afternoon, 1958, from a Ballet Russes movie.