I Smell Witches (Scent the Scene)

In this series, we examine aspects of death and bereavement through art, olfaction, and imaginative thinking. Feel free to follow along at home and leave your take on this scented death meditation below. 

This Week’s Muse

Witches on the Sabbath, Luis Ricardo Falero, 1878

witches

In honour of Halloween, we are going to go a bit death adjacent this week with Falero’s Witches on the Sabbath. Falero was the definition of a Victorian rich asshole. He was a Spanish duke, fancy moustache aficionado, and full-time parental disappointment. He loved painting naked ladies in mythical tableaus or exotic oriental fantasies. He would then sleeping with said naked ladies and topped off the engagement by spreading communicable diseases. He also was responsible for impregnating his 17-year-old maid and part-time model then firing her, throwing her and the baby out on the street, to hide the scandal. He was sued for paternity and lost, having to pay 5 shillings a week for the child’s care. Even that didn’t last too long though, as later that year he died at age 45 of an unnamed illness. My guess, it was syphilis.

Despite being a scoundrel, he was also a great painter. His adoration of the female form is evident in his work, as is his dynamic use of light and movement. Witches on the Sabbath has a frenetic tumbling energy. This dynamic, precarious movement causes you to look first to the foreground of near orgiastic bodies and beautiful young flesh. Then to the sinister details; the only witch making direct eye contact with the viewer has smouldering blacked-out eyes. The lustful touch of the old woman, whose body is mirrored by the iguana, the iguana’s face is so diabolically animated I’m sure he can talk. There’s a pelican’s skeleton perched on a cheek, a hissing black cat, and that moustachioed rotting corpse getting pulled along looks part decomposing Goofy, part demon, and part advanced syphilitic patient (Luis, is that you?). Altogether a disturbing and appealing work.

Scent the Scene

Now, let’s paint an olfactive picture of this raucous scene and see if we can view it in a new light. First, I would use the atmospheric sweetness of the synthetic Calone to give the feel of a twilight sky just after a rain. Wheat, Vanilla, and a touch of Vetiver and Ylang-Ylang would go nicely for our creamy young flesh. Black Leather for the bat wing and Brown Suede for the worn skin of the old woman. Then just on the edge of perception a touch of isolated Indole and Putrescine for our lusty decomposing friend.


That’s how I smell it, but what about you? How would you scent the kinetic energy of this scene? Leave your comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the DS&LG and never miss a scene.

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