Portrait Of A Lady by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle 2010

Guest post by Madeleine

Hello fellow perfume lovers!

The advent of another new year has got me thinking about all the wonderful things that have happened to me over the past 12 months. Perfume-wise, it has been amazing, bringing me experiences that I would have never thought possible just a year ago. Not only did I meet the lovely Portia, start blogging and talking to all you wonderful people, but I bought my first vintage perfume (Chloe), acquired a Serge Lutens bell jar, added wondrous things to my collection, finally swooned over Mitsouko and also fell completely in love with a perfume that I had previously completely and utterly loathed.

Portrait Of A Lady by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle 2010

Portrait of a Lady FragranticaPhoto stolen Fragrantica

Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Clove, cinnamon, rose, black current, raspberry
Heart: Incense, sandalwood, patchouli
Base: Musk, amber, benzoin

News of Portrait’s launch a couple of years ago sent the perfume blogosphere into a spin but some were disappointed at first sniff and due to the fact that it was yet another oriental composition dominated by rose and patchouli. I was one of those people. Upon my first test, it did indeed fail to move me. Portrait was just OK, a bit ho-hum and I was deeply frustrated. I love Frederic Malle and especially Ropion’s creations, but Portrait seemed lacklustre against the rest of the treasures in the line. And why yet another rose when the line up already included Une Rose and Lipstick Rose?

Earlier this year, I got the temptation to revisit it. One evening, I tentatively dabbed some from a sample before heading out for dinner with Mr M. Mr M was in raptures and proclaimed his love instantly, but Portrait was so overwhelming I couldn’t concentrate on eating. It was practically screaming at me: “Rose, spices, oud, berries, patchouli!” in a discordant, off-key coloratura. It almost made me feel queasy.

How things change. Recently, I have been falling in love with darker scents and was tempted to sample Portrait again, both on skin and on a card. It was magic. Portrait’s screechiness was now a beautiful aria on my skin; the scent strip lying in my living room sending me into raptures each time I walked in. I was smitten.
The real beauty of this creation for me is that it is a perfect union of seemingly opposites: voluptuous Middle Eastern opulence and poised elegance.

NicoleKidman GuardianPhoto Stolen Guardian

Luscious raspberries and blackcurrant open the composition with a tart but slightly bruised quality as if they have been macerated, dripping viscous red and purple juices. Then there’s the rose, but it’s not a fresh dewy rose, but deep and rich. Its black petals thick and warm against the skin; the plushest black velvet enveloping the skin in a warm embrace. The composition then begins its journey into its Arabian Nights movement with oud and cinnamon the perfect support act for the rose; the scent of a souk in the early twilight of a summer’s evening. The rose, spices, oud and patchouli are seamless here in their harmony, no one note dominating the overall chorus.
The drydown for me is why Portrait of a Lady is called thus: the rose become gentler, the patchouli and oud soften their volume and the presence of musk gives the perfume a dusky elegance.

Since discovering this newfound love, I have been testing many dark roses for a comparison as one of the initial complaints about Portrait was that the dark rose oud patchouli thing had been done so many times before. But I’d have to argue that Portrait is special amongst these compositions: it weaves its intricate harmony so beautifully and stoically that it stands alone.

Lady oddballfilmsPhoto Stolen oddballfilms

For other reviews, please see NowSmellThis and for another equally enthusiastic take KatiePuckrikSmells
Portrait of a Lady is available at Mecca Cosmetica, Barneys and Les Senteurs.
SurrenderToChance start at $9/ml

Have you tried Portrait of a Lady? What are your favourite dark rose perfumes? Are there any perfumes that have gone from hate to love for you?
With much love till next time,
M x

21 comments on “Portrait Of A Lady by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle 2010

  1. lucasai says:

    I need to try this one after reading many interesting reviews.

  2. Tara says:

    I’m totally with you! PoaL was too much for me at first, but after Undina kindly sent me a decant, I fell head over heels. After draining the decant I bought a full bottle. Although I thought it would suit the colder months best, it’s actually turned out to be better for me in the warmth (when we have it in the UK).

    Another favourite dark rose of my is By Kilian’s Rose Oud.

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi Tara,

      It is strange isn’t it how our feelings can change so strongly?

      Im wearing this in summer and yet it seems like a winter scent. Both times I disliked it was during London and Sydney winters. I shall be looking forward to wearing it in winter now to see the change.


  3. Tatiana says:

    It takes some time to figure out Portrait. I went perfume shopping with my daughter and she sprayed Portrait and I sprayed Lys Mediterranee. We went to the movies right after and I just kept picking her arm up and sniffing through the whole movie. But when I went to try it on my own skin I hated it. I went through two samplers trying to get the feeling that it had on my daughter’s skin. Then winter came and and lo and behold it worked for me. I’ve loved it ever since. If I ever get to the point where it doesn’t feel right again, I will just wait it out and try it some time later. This is one bottle I will not give away. By the way, I don’t think I could ever wear this in the summer, for me it is definitely a winter scent.

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi Tatiana,

      There seems to be a theme here! I love the fact that you were sniffing during a movie! I couldn’t wear it when it was scorching hot, but I still find it good when it is a cool summer’s day and I’m betting I love it in winter now.


  4. Undina says:

    When I first tried PoaL I knew almost nothing about Frederic Malle brand, had no expectations – and it was love from the first sniff. Now it’s one of my top 10 perfumes and I hope to never be without it.

    • Madeleine says:


      I think the lack of expectations helped. I think that people built it up so much when it was released that they couldn’t help but be disappointed snd I think a lot then needed time to give it its own perspective and appreciate it properly. Id never be without it now either. Would love to know what else is in your top ten….I think its on your blog so I’ll head over and check your list out.


  5. poodle says:

    I had gotten a sample of this a while back and while I did like it, my wallet is happy it wasn’t love and I gave the rest of the sample away before it could turn to love. It didn’t seem all that dark on me and only lasted about an hour.

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi Poodle,

      Wow! I’m shocked about the lasting power on you. My skin eats scent and then some and it is one of my most powerful fragrances. Yes, I’m sure the wallet is happy that you didn’t swoon!



  6. Madeline – you obviously have great taste. This is one of my favorites, thanks to Undina 🙂

  7. I love Portrait of a Lady! I actually like it best as the Body Creme. Thick, rich, luxurious. It gets right down to the rose and incense business, which is my favorite part.

  8. hajusuuri says:

    I got the remains of a manufacturer’s spray sample from a swap late last year and it was love at first sniff. On me POAL plays peek-a-boo and ultimately, it does last a long time. I loved this so much it was actually my first (and currently only) FM “FB” purchase. I had to put the FB in quotes because what I actually got was the 3 x 10mL travel spray set (and I just realized I forgot to report this in the 4Q damage polls!).

    • Madeleine says:

      Hi hajusuuri!

      Thanks for dropping by! Glad you love it too! Im sure you’ll have more Malles in your collection soon. They’re wonderful !


  9. Hi Madeleine, i have heard so many great things about this fragrance and am quite intrigued to try it. Do you know any retailers that stock it in Australia? ta

  10. seyyyfa says:

    oh my God ths fragrance is like orgasm to me I looooove portrait of a lady hope It brings me a good man dear God plzzzzzz

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