Thousand and One Nights by Henri Matisse, 1950. Gouache on cut-and-pasted paper

Henri Matisse was a French artist who lived through the Second World War, yet despite the trials he had to endure throughout the ordeal (his wife Amelie and daughter Marguerite were imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis) and having to cope with the after-effects of surgery to treat his duodenal cancer, his flair for colours and passion for art did not wane. In spite of the depressing era he had to live through, Matisse filled his creations with unnaturally bright colours, something unheard of among artists of the day. During his time, he had become world-renowned for his unique cut-out technique, combining cut-outs from painted paper to create iconic and bold artworks, that led to the beginning of what would later be known as Fauvism. Today, Henri’s art has been auctioned for up to USD$80 million. He is recognised as a pioneer in the realm of modern art, along with rival artist Picasso, both of whom are credited for shaping 20th century painting.

Perhaps it is Henri’s insistent struggle to remain upbeat throughout tough times that life has thrown his way, which makes Guerlain’s launch of Jasmin Bonheur (from the L’Art & La Matière collection) so timely just as the world is struggling to come out of the pandemic with vigour for living the new normal.

For this special project, Guerlain perfumer Delphine Jelk interpreted Henri’s love of colour and life into a concoction that expresses youth, vitality and a flare for living each day without regret by focusing on the jasmine flower.

Widely used in Southeast Asia as garlands for prayer and personal adornment, fresh jasmine is popular for its bright and lively fragrance that captivates senses and soothes the soul. However, bottling them into bottles of scent is amazingly difficult. 8,000 jasmine flowers, freshly harvested at daybreak, are needed to produce just one gram of jasmine oil. On top of that, the petals must not be bruised so special baskets are needed. The labour is intensive, the extraction a challenge and different varieties of jasmine produce notes that are different from each other.

It is because of this costly process and difficulty in procuring the right type of jasmine, that makes the creation of a jasmine-centred perfume a venture few perfume makers want to take on. Yet jasmine is one of the six key ingredients of the Guerlinade – a term the brand uses to refer to its signature touch that is applied throughout all its offerings.

Delphine however, saw this as the perfect reason to tap on the flower’s unique characteristics. The fleeting nature of the bloom’s existence and its amazing scent becomes the ideal expression of life and how beautiful, vibrant and awe-inspiring it can be, all at the same time.

At the top of this collab collection is the Maison Matisse Bee Bottle. Here, two legendary icons, La Musique (1939), one of Henri Matisse’s most emblematic paintings, and the legendary Bee Bottle that is celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2023, come together for the occasion and which are decorated with designs inspired by a modern masterpiece hand-painted by Astrid de Chaillé. Only 14 one-off pieces are available around the world, with 1 available in Singapore, and priced at $23,600.

According to Guerlain, “Jasmin Bonheur unveils a colourful jasmine tinted with joyous nuances—radiant orange with an apricot note, vibrant violet with powdery iris and tender pink with rose—for which the Guerlain Perfumer drew inspiration from the dazzling palette of Henri Matisse. A perfect picture of happiness signed by Guerlain.”

Home & Decor caught up with Delphine in an exclusive chat to find out more about the perfume and her.

H&D: What scent are you wearing today?

Delphine: I’m not wearing any perfume today. As a perfumer I do not wear scents on myself when I work as it can interfere with the projects I am working on. This is especially important when you are trying to determine the sillage of a scent, which means how far it can be smelt and also how long it lasts on the skin. Wearing perfume on myself would mean confusing my nose over whether the scent I’m smelling is from something I am working on, or from my body.

H&D: Very quickly, tell us what Jasmin Bonheur is?

Delphine: Jasmin Bonheur marks the very first time a jasmine fragrance has been composed for the L’Art & La Matière collection. By inflecting jasmine with apricot, rose and iris, Guerlain’s perfumers have brought colour to the white jasmine flower, making it smile with joyful shades of colour. Happiness and French joie de vivre exude. I designed an elegant, colourful jasmine fragrance, tinting this white flower with vibrant olfactory nuances inspired by the palette of Henri Matisse, one of the artists who best expresses happiness.

H&D: What was the main challenge of the perfume?

Delphine: Jasmine is a highly delicate material to harvest and use. Picked at dawn to preserve the freshness of its fragrance, the flower is too fragile to be distilled. Instead, its essence is captured by making an absolute which is extracted on-site as soon as the blooms are harvested. Because jasmine alone does not evoke the powerful, yet delicate scent it has in the field, it comes down to the artful skill of the perfumer to magnify the almost tangible sensuality of the fragrance. In order to create the perfect jasmine, Guerlain perfumers blend each of the two jasmine varieties used for perfumery in precise proportions. Guerlain uses jasmine Grandiflorum from three different regions: Grasse, Calabria and India. In 2010, at Thierry Wasser’s request, the precious Calabrian jasmine, which disappeared at the end of the 1990s, was revived for Guerlain on the same land the house’s emblematic bergamot is harvested. Indian sambac jasmine with its bright and sunny, orange blossom-like facets is then added to the white flower bouquet. From these superb custom-made floral materials, we created Jasmin Bonheur.

H&D: Who is Jasmin Bonheur designed for?

Delphine: I don’t really have a specific person in mind when I am creating a scent, but I would say this fragrance reflects a sunny vitality, colour, strength and youth.

The Maison Matisse Edition includes Guerlain’s Figue Azur candle sporting a specially designed jar featuring Matisse’s iconic cut-outs.

The limited edition (1,000 pieces worldwide) Maison Matisse Edition L’Art & La Matière collection Jasmin Bonheur retails for $1,022 at Guerlain’s ION Bee Garden Boutique and the Raffles City Flagship Boutique. The Maison Matisse Edition Figue Anzur Candle retails at $379 (limited to 500 pieces worldwide).