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La Vierge De Fer – Wearing my heart on my wrist….. – August 17, 2015

Calla Lily - photo courtesy Wikicommons

Sometimes I love a fragrance because it features a favourite note, or because I like the idea of it or the nose behind it, but when I smelled La Vierge De Fer by Serge Lutens on me for the first time, it affected me in a deep and compelling way and I was reminded of a Lutens quote: “A perfume belongs to our heart as well as our skin”.

‘La Vierge De Fer’ translates into ‘The Iron Maiden’ and refers to a Medieval torture device – an iron cabinet with hinged front panels and spike-covered interior, tall enough to enclose a human being. Nowadays, it’s believed that reports of such a device were fictional and certainly never existed in the Middle Ages. Still, over time it became associated with the Virgin Mary, strong-willed women like Joan of Arc and lilies.

If you read enough about Sege Lutens, you’ll discover that many of his fragrances, like La Fille de Berlin and L’Orpheline, were inspired by his personal experiences, especially around his mother. Here’s a snippet from an interview with the Independent: Born in Lille in 1942, Lutens was separated from his mother at a very young age. Raised instead by foster parents, the lack of a maternal figure had a profound effect on him. "I was born in the midst of the Second World War," he says. "At the time, my mother was married and it was a complex situation. She was unfaithful to her husband."

"My dad is not German," he jokes. "Let me just be clear about that. But my mum had to give me up because if she hadn't, the laws at the time meant she would have been punished as an adulteress. She did it in order to protect me and protect herself. My mum didn't abandon me, but it means that I didn't see her that much and I didn't have a motherly character in my life. My personality was influenced by that." La Vierge De Fer is said to be an homage to his mother.

Mommy issues aside, La Vierge De Fer moves me every time I wear it. Its simple, uncomplicated beauty has taken up residence in my heart.

Like some of his other fragrances, Lutens doesn’t give out the notes for La Vierge De Fer. And, like most of the descriptions of his perfumes, the marketing materials obfuscate more than they educate, forcing the wearer to experience the fragrance for themselves and without prejudice, so I can only relate my personal experience of it.
On me, La Vierge De Fer opens with jasmine, sweet, floral, indolic and softer than I expect from a Lutens fragrance. There’s a note of green here too, that adds a brightness to the opening. A fizziness from aldehydes adds a metallic shimmer to the creamy jasmine that slyly weaves in and out of the fragrance creating a sort of shadow game. After a while I smell lily – the central character. First, lily of the valley, muguet, its distinctive floral scent, clean and bright, extends the opening with its jasmine-like facets. I also smell hints of pollen and the waxy petals of the Calla lily. Over time, it gets softly spicy and then gently warmed by musk.

La Vierge De Fer has no dark side, no dirtiness to it, no twists, turns or surprises. Nor is it loud, heavy or opulent, which doesn’t mean it lacks depth or interest. Instead, it dries down to a clean, clear skin scent without a trace of sadness or bitterness.

I love lilies – they ‘re what drew me to try La Vierge De Fer in the first place and the lilies here reach right into my heart with their quiet, gentle beauty and determined presence that won’t be denied.

I can’t tell you whether I ‘got’ what Lutens intended me to ‘get’ when he created La Vierge De Fer but if a perfume belongs to our heart as well as our skin, then I am very content to wear my heart on my wrist.

La Vierge De Fer is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.