The Art of Perfume Ads: Houbigant Chantilly (1960s)

In 1941 the classic French perfume house of Houbigant released Chantilly, an Oriental fragrance with notes of bergamot, lemon, neroli, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, carnation, orris, sandalwood, vanilla, benzoin, tonka, and musk. (I’ve just consulted its entry in my trusty H & R Fragrance Guide; you can also read more about the fragrance’s history here.)

Chantilly has been promoted in many, many print advertisements over the past seventy years, and more than once its ads have incorporated famous works of art. In this magazine ad from 1965, a cherub nestles on a cloud (of Chantilly lace!) over the slogan, “Nice girls do wear Chantilly.”

That angel is certainly a familiar little figure. He’s borrowed from Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, which was painted in 1512-13 as an altarpiece for a Benedictine monastery. (The Wikipedia entry for this painting isn’t too bad… take a look here!)

The two angels at the bottom ledge, who look up at Mary and the infant Christ, Saint Sixtus, and Saint Barbara, have become much more famous than the altarpiece’s main figures. They’ve appeared on their own everywhere from T-shirts to tissue boxes to postal stamps.

Like many people, I’ve always been fond of these angels, as well as the overall painting. (A reproduction of the Sistine Madonna hung in a corridor of my Catholic high school; I remember doing my homework under it.)

The naughty-nice dichotomy is always an oversimplification, but it becomes even funnier in this context, when you consider that Raphael created this angel to accompany the original “nice girl,” the Madonna herself.

I’ve never worn Chantilly, and it probably had been altered by the time I was old enough to wear it, but now that I’ve been thinking about its advertisements, I may seek out a sample of its vintage formulation to try.

Note: to read more posts in this series, click here.

Images: Chantilly ad (1965), via Vintage Ad Browser; Raphael, Sistine Madonna (1512-13), via Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Dresden; LOVE stamp (1995) via USStampGallery.

About these ads

9 comments

  1. I know Sistine Madonna well (for some reason it was very popular in the country I grew up in, there were many articles, TV programs, etc. covering Raphael’s works) – and probably because of that I never appreciated using those fragments in different ads. For me it looks too foreign.

  2. Love these arty posts! Those little angels look mischievous and a little naughty to me, but still very sweet. Perfect for the Chantilly ad. You really must try some Chantilly…it is a wonderful perfume.

  3. For years a chain of Rotisserie (chicken) restaurants in my area used those cherubs in their advertisement. One would “eat” on them. Although the food was good, this made me cringe every single time. I knew that very few people knew their provenance and probably thought they had been created just for these eateries. I’m not sure Raphaël would have approved of those. I’m all for making great art more accessible but believe there are limits to what is appropriate. As for Chantilly, I do like the add. I’ve tried it a few times years ago & found it too powdery but had a friend on which it was quite lovely!

    1. Icaria, that would probably have bothered me, too. As they say in “Spinal Tap,” it’s a fine line between clever and stupid. ;)
      And I love powdery scents, so this would probably be right up my alley!

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