Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, The Roses of Heliogabalus, 1888 (source: artsy)
The celebration of romance, Saint Valentine’s Day, is soon approaching. For many of us, an immediate association that springs to mind is the symbol of the flower. This is undoubtedly down to the overwhelming use of floral symbolism as signifiers of lust and romance through age old literature and media that we’ve been exposed to since birth.
Many will know of the iconic film scene in American Beauty in which leading lady, Annette Bening, angelically rests upon a sea of red roses in the fantasies of character, Lester. A powerful depiction of passion for another.
American Beauty, 1999 (Source: Another Magazine)
As we live in a screen obsessed culture, we’re faced with a mass of visual content on a daily basis so it can be easy to assume that our deep rooted associations, such as the rose and romance, derive from image based mediums. We may be bias to say as perfumery enthusiasts, but we truly believe that floral scent and perfume was the initial ignition for these romantic connections. Let us enlighten you as to why…
An emotional trigger
Czech and Speake Rose Cologne
Have you ever been filled with emotion when a scent takes you back to childhood? Perhaps a certain brand of suncream provokes memories of family beach holidays, or a particular perfume note is the embodiment of your favourite aunt. This is because our sense of smell is embedded in the emotional part of our brain; the ‘limbic system’, which controls our feelings and memories. Just as with make-up and clothes, perfume is a form of self expression and identification, and has the power to evoke emotion and desire, subconsciously drawing others towards us.
The secret language of love
The Illustrated Language of Flowers (Source: Planterra Conservatory)
As with all elements of modern life, cultural codes have their origins in history. The Victorians lived under an oppressive rule which effected how they could dress, behave and even restricted the conversations they could have. In rebellion, they developed a language using flowers known as ‘Floriography’, in which they crafted meanings for the different flower variations and used these flower symbols to send secret messages. Women would do this by choosing perfumes with specific floral scents, such as violet and honeysuckle, to seduce a suitor without sinning in the eyes of society.
A love drug
You may now be wondering why the scent of flowers would hold any significant influence over other charming aromas? Their sweet and enticing smell is an obvious component, but the real magnetism comes from their naturally occurring aphrodisiac properties which tantalise the endorphins. So there you have it! The flower is a love drug, quietly playing with our hormone balance.