A Spritz of the Zeitgeist

By Catheryne Kelly

Rictus grin, stark white skin, acidic green hair. A melodramatic ‘madman’. Is this what you picture when ‘The Joker’ is mentioned? Undoubtedly, you’ve been acquainted with this character in some shape or form; from his slapstick appearance in retro Batman comics to his recent chilling portrayal by Joaquin Phoenix in last year’s blockbuster movie, Joker. Yet, this figure is more enduring than any regular symbol of popular culture, and perfume house, Art de Parfum has transcended him into the realms of fragrance. Here, he takes on an even more evocative meaning. In A Spritz of the Zeitgeist, we explore a unique fusion of scent and symbolism which may well serve as the perfect perfume for 2020.

Jokers, jesters, and masked characters have been portrayed in their multitudes across art and culture. As symbols, they are further enriched by diverse contexts, from courtly life to playing cards. Yet, the fictional character from the films and comics that we all know, and some of us love, was actually inspired by classical literature; one of Victor Hugo’s works, no less.

 Frontispiece (vol. II) of Victor Hugo’s novel The Man Who Laughs, International Limited Edition, published by Estes and Lauriat in 1869.

DC Comics’ Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson sought inspiration from a 1928 film adaptation of Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit (The Man Who Laughs). In the eery black and white silent film, actor Conrad Veidt plays the protagonist, Gwynplaine, a young nobleman whose face is so disfigured that it has been stuck in a permanent smile since childhood.

The popularity of The Joker hasn’t ceased since the character’s conception. Even this month, in Dallas, Texas a page of Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke was auctioned off for a record figure. Arguably, his 1988 collaboration with Alan Moore details one of the most iconic clashes between Batman and The Joker ever written and has influenced almost every Dark Knight tale since its release. The nine-panel slice of cinema-style noir was auctioned off at a staggering  $156,000!

Evidently, Hugo’s novel has made its mark on many artists, dramatists and creatives alike. The complex handling of themes such as social class and identity no doubt captures their attention. Le Joker, the fragrance by Art de Perfume encapsulates this complexity in their newly released, courageous and provocative scent.

Creator of the fragrance, Ruta Degutyte wanted her product to bottle the uneasy conflicts of dual personality and divisive temperament, often portrayed by such characters as The Joker.

Interestingly, this figure is the champion of the house’s seventh fragrance. In numerology, seven represents wisdom and the knowledge that reality is often hidden behind an illusion or mask. At the scent’s very ideological foundation is a melange of light and dark, clarity and obscurity, play and danger.

The idea of a mask is integral to understanding the spirit of Le Joker. Since the birth of drama, when ancient Greeks brought the antipodes of comedy and tragedy to the stage, creatives have strived to depict the conflicting tendencies of the human psyche; in its propensity for both joy and despair. In the same way, this fragrance encourages the exploration of our emotions, our moods and our alter-egos. Le Joker makes for a liberating wear in its defiance to view individuals two-dimensionally.

‘Le Joker’ fragrance by Art de Parfum, the seventh addition to their line.

The unsettling nature of this fragrance could make it the number-one scent to try this year. Right now, we live in a time where the extremes of human nature, the good and the bad, are exposed to us in plentiful measures. It’s a time of conflict, both internal and external. 2020 is an age in which to address universal issues and to question the roles we can play, individually and collectively, in the hope of amending our current situation.

At the heart of Art de parfum is the belief that artistic expression in all its forms, whether that be literature, film or perfumery, creates an outlet through which to effect social change. In awakening real and potentially challenging emotions Le Joker inspires its wearer to be daring, different and to question the world around them. Certainly, the world needs an injection of this attitude right now.

Unsurprisingly, the perfume itself marries unexpected pairings and plays with contrasts to evoke both conflict and harmony. Detect the warm and cloudy spiciness of Timur pepper, powdery nutmeg and star anise contrasted with deep, sobering marine. Sensual animalic notes are enlivened with fresh and verdant moss. Floral patchouli clashes with musk and ambroxan. This unisex scent is a sublime fusion of warm and cool, sharp and mellow. Le Joker is joyfully disruptive.

Le Joker is available from Art de Parfum’s website and from selected retailers around the globe.

If you enjoyed A Spritz of the Zeitgeist, why not read Beautiful Inside Out for another take on fragrance.