Fumes in the News: Casanova's Favorite Panty-Droppers

“As for women, I have always found that the one I was in love with smelled good, and the more copious her sweat the sweeter I found it.”

So wrote original man-about-town Casanova in his memoirs, The Story of My Life. The 18th century seducer, swindler, diplomat, alchemist, and all-around roister-doisterer is back to school a new generation of swingers through an exhibition of his writings at the National Library of France. The show, entitled "Casanova -- The Passion for Freedom", displays the original manuscript of his tell-all memoirs for the first time ever, reports the New York Times.

The man wasn't just a horny pony -- he was also a learned connoisseur of perfume. Casanova placed much importance on the right scent, and heaped scorn upon fragrances that did not meet his epicurean standards. Surprisingly for such a sex-happy scoundrel, the smell of musk was not one of his favorites. In his writings, he refers to a lecherous duchess who stinks of the stuff:
“Ah! This is a good-looking man! Come and sit near me, my fine fellow!”

I obeyed respectfully, but a noxious smell of musk, which seemed to me almost corpse-like, nearly upset me. The infamous duchess had raised herself on the sofa and exposed all the nakedness of the most disgusting bosom, which would have caused the most courageous man to draw back.

More to his liking was the smell of incense, which he burned during happier intimacies with the young ladies. Casanova also had a nose for rose:
M___ M___ had amongst the charms and trinkets fastened to the chain of her watch, a small crystal bottle exactly similar to the one that I wore myself. I called her attention to that fact, and as mine was filled with cotton soaked in otto of roses, I made her smell it.

“I have the same,” she observed. And she made me inhale its fragrance.

“It is a very scarce perfume,” I said, “and very expensive.”

“Yes, in fact it cannot be bought.”

Hmm, the old nicher-than-thou one-upmanship game? 18th century fumeheads: they're just like us!

Casanova print via


  1. Casanova also said that he always loved the smells of the women he loved, the stronger the better!
    Thanks for nudging me towards a great idea: I'm meeting the authors of the exhibition catalogue in a couple of weeks -- one of them is definitely "one of us", he even won the Jasmin Award for an article on fragrance in literature... I'll ask them a few questions on Casanova, who was also, apart from quite the serial lover, a great writer, spy, gambler, entrepreneur and erudite!

  2. Hi Denyse! Well isn't that a thing: one of the Casanova exhibition catalogue writers is our kind of people. Yes, by all means, get the lowdown on Casanova's olfactory observations and activities. You don't get to be the kind of multi-multi-hyphenate he was without throwing open the throttle to every single one of the sensory organs.

  3. yes, incense and rose - two of my top favorites!

  4. Out go the musky Patous, and in comes Nahéma & Opium!

  5. Too right, DomPerrier! I'm fascinated by which fragrances historical figures wore through the ages. Apparently Casanova was a big fan of cologne which was new and therefore all the rage - and the opposite of the musky, civety smells of the older generation.

  6. Katie,

    What a great post, I had no idea he would prefer incenses and roses to musks:) I guess we have at least this thing in common, LOL! Even though I like some musks (the naughtier, the better, my current favorite is Musks Koublai Khan), I still prefer incenses. By the way, have you tried Miller Harris La Fumée already? I think it has your name written all over it:)

    And on a completely different note now... guess what I am finally sampling right now? Coromandel!!! I know it's completely out-of-topic, but since you love it so much, I just had to share the news. I know I am completely late to the party on the Chanel Exclusives, but since I am planning a visit to a Chanel Boutique soon to chose my Xmas present, I thought it was time. I received a sample package this morning from a friend with Coromandel, Bois des Iles, Sycomore, 31 Rue Cambon and 28 La Pausa and already tried the 2 first ones, both amazing!

    Well, back to Casanova and his scent preferences, what do you think a contemporary casanova would enjoy these days?



  7. I wonder if there was a little innuendo going on during his conversation about rose perfumes? Maybe it would have been more evident in French. I think Casanova would have ventured into feminine frags. Rose chypres, jtd?

  8. Sabrina, Miller Harris La Fumée does indeed have my name all over it - I plan to review it soon. Excited on your behalf for your "discovery" of Coromandel. It's just so satisfying.

    Nora, I'm taken with your innuendo notion, I'm sure there are all kinds of nuances in Casanova's writings that are lost in translation.

    As for what C would wear today, I think he might indeed take delight in wearing designated feminine fumes - anything to toy with taboos. And since he eschewed the tried and true (which were the heavy civet scents worn by the older generation of his time), I imagine him getting impatient with today's tried and true: fruity florals. I still can't see him in anything but rose and incense, methinks.