Growing up in the south one of my favorite expressions was describing a formidable woman as a “steel magnolia”. The words are meant to convey a woman who is a combination of femininity and strength of character to withstand all that life throws at them. It means that even if the world was falling apart around them their outward appearance and courtesy was flawless. The phrase became more widely known after the movie of the same name was released in 1989. It may be parochial but that movie never captures the combination of gentility and grit the actual steel magnolias I met had.
La belle ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1490-1496)
The new releases for the Jul et Mad Les Whites collection reminded me of this because one of them was inspired by the Leonardo da Vinci “La belle ferronniere” Ferronniere translates to iron worker and so the picture is iron worker’s woman. The perfume inspired by this is called Bella Donna with creative direction by Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard working with perfumer Luca Maffei. All three of the made a trip to the Louvre, where it hangs, prior to beginning work on Bella Donna. They would decide Bella Donna would be a contrast of the rigidity seen outwardly matched by the warmth of the passion underneath. That passion is symbolized by a central floral accord shaped around magnolia.
Luca Maffei, Julien Blanchard, and Madalina Stoica-Blanchard (l.to r.) getting inspired at the Louvre
Bella Donna opens with a zingy ginger and mulberry top accord. It is an energetic fleeting accord which I would have liked to have stick around a tiny bit longer. The florals are in a rush to get here and so they run over it with magnolia leading the charge. Magnolia can be a heady floral and most of the time perfumers choose to bring it down a notch by using woods to rein it in. Sig. Maffei is going the other direction turning it loose to form the nucleus of the heart of Bella Donna. He delicately powders it with iris and rose, adds heft with ylang-ylang, and uses jasmine to expand it all. Once it is all together this is a huge floral accord combining beauty and presence. The base is the warmth of benzoin, opopanax, and sandalwood.
Bella Donna has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Bella Donna expertly captures the idea that within femininity can also lie iron; or steel. Which makes Bella Donna the perfume of a Ferronniere Magnolia.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Jul et Mad.