Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles is mentioned in a conversation between Harry Ross (Paul Newman) and the actress Catherine Ames (Susan Sarandon). He’s a private detective who’s investigating on the mysterious disappearance of Catherine’s ex husband. He knows she was at a murder scene by her scent, which happens to be the famous fragrance launched in 1962.
In Scent and Subversion Barbara Herman describes it as “the perfume version of a rock star’s retro suit: an interpretation of the past through the tripped-out psychedelic fantasies of the ’60s.” She continues: “It starts off brightly and moves into powdery sweetness. You can almost smell the smoke from dying-out beeswax candles. An hour or two into it, and Bal à Versailles is a mellow, powdery-gentle, and comforting skin scent.” According to Fragrantica, it has a citrusy/floral opening (rosemary, orange blossom, mandarin orange, cassia, jasmine, neroli, bergamot, Bulgarian rose and lemon), warm middle notes (sandalwood, patchouli, lilac, orris root, vetiver, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and leather) and woody/animalic base notes (tolu balsam, amber, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla, cedar and resins). Not a perfume for the faint of heart!
A curiosity: no wonder that such a peculiar perfume has lots of fans. Among them, the Italian actress Valentina Cortese and Michael Jackson, who was said to have first used it thanks to Elizabeth Taylor.