Etat Libre d’Orange The Afternoon of a Faun ~ fragrance review


As usual, Etat Libre d’Orange loads its newish release, The Afternoon of a Faun, with lots of backstory: Stéphane Mérimée’s poem L'après-midi d'un faune, Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet (nymphs! sex!), and…uh…Mx* Justin Vivian Bond, who is given equal credit (and ad space) for developing the fragrance with perfumer Ralf Schwieger. (I can’t believe Ralf is pleased.) There’s a world of difference between Nijinsky’s The Afternoon of a Faun and Bond’s…Shortbus (though I can’t believe Etat Libre d’Orange didn’t try for a perfume tie-in with that film); when Nijinsky is “present,” even in a still photograph or grainy film clip, everyone else pales.

The Afternoon of a Faun perfume goes on “liquor-y” — with rich citrus, a touch of jasmine, and lots of immortelle. Out of that initial triad, immortelle is heaviest and longer lasting; it dominates the next phase of development too, but in mid-development it’s augmented with whiffs of rosy incense. In its final phase, The Afternoon of a Faun presents sweet, woody myrrh accented with pepper; its base notes have a waxy sheen, as if the lingering immortelle had been dipped in beeswax. Also, in the extreme dry down, I detect toasted benzoin and lightest moss.

What has The Afternoon of a Faun to do with Nijinsky? I’ll leave it up to you. In my imagination, I could link the light, but penetrating, waxy-woody aromas with the stage boards dancers pound their poor bodies against. Incense and roses? “Holy” dance and shouts of “Bravo!” The fleeting floral notes mixing with immortelle remind me of the scents of post-performance costumes lined up on a rack, awaiting their trip to the cleaners. Moss and benzoin? Faun and nymphs, of course! See? It’s not that hard to fall into line when a perfume company leads us by the nose in a particular direction.

Etat Libre d'Orange The Afternoon of a Faun

The Afternoon of a Faun is not strange or quirky but it’s beautifully composed and, to me, addictive (and my favorite perfume from Etat Libre d’Orange…as of today). My only warning would be: you must love immortelle to appreciate it.

Etat Libre d’Orange The Afternoon of a Faun Eau de Parfum has good lasting power and sillage; 100 ml sells for $149. The notes include bergamot, pepper, cinnamon, incense, rose, immortelle, orris, jasmine, myrrh, moss, leather and benzoin. For buying information; see the listing for Etat Libre d’Orange under Perfume Houses.

*A gender-neutral honorific (used instead of Mr, Ms, etc.)

For a spooky, film image of Nijinsky dancing The Afternoon of a Faun, look here.

To see a modern, full performance of The Afternoon of a Faun, watch this.

Note: top image [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. austenfan says:

    This is very high on my to try list! V. over at Bois de Jasmin was very enthusiastic about it and I mostly like the ELd’O’s I have tried. Thanks for another thumbs up for this one.

    • Kevin says:

      austenfan: you’re welcome…hope you enjoy it.

  2. Abyss says:

    Hey, Kevin, I’m curious how this compares to that limited edition immortelle perfume that L’Occitane released a year or two ago (the name escapes me right now) that you also reviewed?

    • Kevin says:

      Abyss: good question! They are close in character (and that’s the only reason a bottle of The Afternoon of a Faun is not in my cupboard NOW)…but the Faun is lighter…it floats…and I think would be a year-round fragrance (I only wear the L’Occitane in winter). If I only had two immortelle fragrances I’d get Faun…but I have so many!

  3. Janice says:

    I tried this just briefly and liked it. I am slowly starting to appreciate immortelle (after recoiling in horror the first time I tried Sables), but I don’t remember it as being all that prominent in this one, so clearly I’m not recognizing it as well as I thought I did… Must find that sample again.

    • Kevin says:

      Janice: this was immortelle-loaded to me, but in the best possible way…nicely layered. I think this could be a “starter” immortelle fragrance…better than Sables perhaps for people who are not fans, but not ‘haters’ either, of immortelle.

  4. Annikky says:

    Strangely, despite my general suspiciousness towards immortelle (it really is one of my least favourite notes), it doesn’t bother me in Faun at all. I realise it’s there, but seamlessly blended with the waxy floorboards, worn leather and wilted flowers. So I would encourage even those wary of immortelle to give this one a try. I find it wonderful, original and easy to wear and must do something about my end-of-sample situation.

    Thanks, Kevin, for the review!

    • Kevin says:

      Annikky: yes, immortelle is beautifully blended into the composition.

  5. I’m not an immortelle lover, in fact I’m nigh immortelle-phobic, but I’m a lover of Nijinsky, so this is kind of a bittersweet fragrance for me. Love the idea of a Nijisnky-inspired fragrance (or heck, an entire line of them!), but have no desire to try this sadly.

    • Kevin says:

      Breathes…just one, itty-bitty sniff? Hmmm?

      • ha! You got me. If someone handed me a sample of this I would put it on. Don’t know that I’d pay for a sample though. :)

  6. irisfreak says:

    is this marketed as unisex? or does it lean towards men?

  7. Joe says:

    Hi Kevin. I really enjoy the ELdO Afternoon quite a bit. I get some of the aspects you mention, but I really sense a very prominent rose accord even from the very first sniff, and it remains through the composition. I love how complex the composition is and especially the nice effect of the benzoin and myrrh resins. Immortelle is there for sure, but it’s a less obvious presence to me in this than it is in Like This.

    I’d be tempted to buy a bottle of this at some point … only if ELdO issued it in 50ml sizes! I really hope that only 100ml sizes isn’t a new trend for the line, especially as it bucks the trend for a lot of us consumers to want smaller lines.

    • Kevin says:

      Joe: agree…how awful to just sell 100 ml! An ELd’O 30 ml bottle would be cuter still, wouldn’t it? I’d have bought this by now in 30 ml. The rose gives a nice LIFT to this perfume…perfect proportions.

      • Annikky says:

        Fully agree with you both regarding the sizing. 30 ml I would have already bought, 50 ml I could justify, 100 ml is too much. I very much hope this 100-ml-only situation is temporary.

  8. I went to the ELdO launch party for this at the Museum of Art & Design (MAD). Justin Vivian Bond said she wanted this perfume to smell like having sex on a field with flowers near by.

    • Kevin says:

      Carlos: I assume you have a bottle of this in your possession?! Was Schwieger at the party too?

  9. Tara says:

    Kevin, Thanks for this great review. I really like this line. I know the names are ridiculous but at least they are entertaining and fun. I can’t wait to try this one. I have liked almost all that I have tried with the notable exception of Secretions Magnifiques.

    • Kevin says:

      Tara, SM is in a class by itself!

  10. lupo says:

    Thanks for the review Kevin, love the aestethic of Nijinsky and I’m really looking forward to trying this one out. My only experience with immortelle is Sable Annick Goutal, and as someone already pointed out, you can’t really say that one is a friendly immortelle :) how do they compare?
    Plus, while I’m fascinated by ELDO and them being so off the wall, I always find in their fragrances a sort of “oily” signature note: Fat Electrician has got some of it, Rien and Like This as well, and it’s a bit of a put-off. Does that happen with this new fragrance?
    So far, I do not own any ELDO fragrances, though Cigarette and Jasmine is very tempting…

    • Kevin says:

      LUPO: I don’t think this one has the “heft” you dislike in some ELd’O perfumes, and the immortelle is airier too than it is in Sables (to me anyway)

  11. jbordeau says:

    If you’ve enjoyed 1740 (Marquis de Sade) or Tubereuse 3: Animale by Histoire des Parfums, you’ve enjoyed immortelle (I haven’t sniffed everything, but I was tempted to believe for a bit that immortelle was part of their Histoire base, or “Guerlinade”). This is definitely a temptation. It must be good, Kevin, if you prefer this over Rien, Secretions Magnifiques, Tom of Finland, Eloge du Traitre…gosh, ELdO is a terrific line for guys, I think.

    • Kevin says:

      jbordeau: I do prefer this to all those you mention. I’m afraid to look and see if immortelle is on the “banned” “almost banned” list of IFRA!

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