betwixt the sun and moon
Astarte of the Syrians: Venus Queen Ere Aphrodite was.
In silver sheen
Her twofold girdle clasps the infinite boon
Of bliss whereof the heaven and earth commune:
And from her neck’s inclining flower-stem lean
Love-freighted lips and absolute eyes that wean
The pulse of hearts to the sphere’s dominant tune.
Torch-bearing, her sweet ministers compel
All thrones of light beyond the sky and sea
The witnesses of Beauty’s face to be:
That face, of Love’s all-penetrative spell
Amulet, talisman, and oracle,
- Betwixt the sun and moon a mystery.
This was the sonnet created by DG Rossetti to appear alongside the painting.
I have been enamoured of the Pre-Raphaelite movement since I was 10 years old, when I received a birthday card of a Pre-Raphaelite print (I think it was ‘The Bower’), and many more were to follow! I know that among school friends of the time, we kind of fancied that in the right conditions we could all affect the ubiquitous Pre-Raphaelite pose a la Jane Morris or Alexa Wilding … we had long hair right and that petulant lower lip/moody look!!? The naivety and deluded confidence of youth.
So, tickets pre-booked, I visited ‘The Pre-Raphaelites: Avant Garde” exhibition a couple of weeks ago at Tate Britain. Pre-raphaelite art seems to create strong divisions in people, like Marmite! But for me, it was a sweet feast for the eyes and an inspiration to the senses. There were the familiar and favourite paintings and also a room devoted to some of the Arts & Crafts movement, so expect some William Morris tapestry!
Rossetti is one of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite painters, I particularly love this one of Astarte Syriaca; the colours remind me of the Autumn season, with the lush, mysteriousness of the green gown.
There is also a powerful sensuality to the pose, but then Astarte in the pantheons of ancient mythology is also known as Aphrodite and Ishtar, the goddess of love and the divine personification of the planet Venus; connected to fertility, love, sexuality and war!
If ‘Astarte’ could be bottled into a perfume, what would the inspired ‘juice’ smell like? Answers on the back of a (Pre-Raphaelite) postcard please.
I am thinking, perhaps a Chypre composition might embody the spirit of Astarte. There’s that ‘fertile earth’ nature quality about a Chypre perfume, with its moss+wood notes. Also for a venusian touch, to include some Rose and Chocolate/cocoa notes to represent Venus, ruler of love and sexuality. One for experimentation I think!
I went a-hunting on Basenotes for some listings of rose/chypres and cacao/chypres perfumes and this is a brief list, I think I need some samples!
- Aromatic Elixir – Clinique – I used to wear this, but perhaps too herbal, hemp and earth-mother for Astarte.
- Aliage by Estee Lauder
- Knowing by Estee Lauder – I vaguely remember someone who wore this, but cannot recall the aroma!
- Charvet Cuvee Speciale by Charvet
- Guerlain Parure
- Une Rose Chypre by Andy Tauer – I love quite a few of his fragrances, but this I’ve not tried.
- Blue Agave and Cacao by Jo Malone – Just loved the name!