The gardens of ancient Rome were the inspiration for the latest creation by Italian perfumery Maria Candida Gentile.
The house’s new eau de parfum, Viridarium, is directly inspired by the frescoes from the underground hall of the villa of Livia Drusilla, third wife of the Emperor Augustus, which were once located at Prima Porta, Rome. Now housed in the the National Roman Museum, the four frescoes date from the 1st century B.C. and depict a lush, ancient garden.
Perfumer Maria Candida Gentile states: “With Viridarium I tried to recreate the scents and fragrances from a typical ancient Roman garden by personally compiling a botanical list based on the stunning 1 BC Livia’s Viridarium fresco at the National Roman Museum.”
The garden, painted in intricate detail and filled with birds, including goldfinches, doves and robins, contains many trees. Some of these are fruit-bearing, such as apple, quince and pomegranate trees; others are evergreen, such as laurel, spruce, cypress and pine. Along the garden walls grow flowers and plants: rose, violet, ivy, chrysanthemum and iris.
An olfactory representation of this complex and seasonally impossible (possibly intended to be symbolic) combination of plants and flowers would inevitably be difficult to reproduce as a workable perfume, and it proved to be quite a challenge:
A contemplation of the work led to the compilation of a list with all its botanical elements and which Maria Candida then used to create her eponymous homage to the original, amalgamating seemingly disparate olfactory notes and culminating in a liminal space suspended between our ancestral past and her divergent current style.
Elaborating on her approach, Gentile comments: “I didn’t just create a botanical list… I tried to reproduce the sensations and atmosphere that were breathed in this place.”
Described as aromatic and woody, the top notes consist of mandarin, bergamot, clary sage and a green accord, whilst chamomile flowers, wild herbs, poppy leaves, macerated date, carnation and beeswax supply the heart, supported by an accord of exotic woods, with incense, cypress, elm and white fir in the base.