Seven Questions on Beauty : Sigrun from Riktig Parfym

Sigrun Olafsdottir’s perfume reviews come as a breath of fresh air. Her descriptions are often unusual, yet spot on. I still remember her review of Aftelier’s Cepes and Tuberose, and how, to her, the perfume embodied the scent of a pair of (nice) trolls in a Swedish horror story. If you can’t see the connection, go read her review!


After reading her thoughts on beauty of course.

1) What do you mean when you call something beautiful? Do you have different definitions when you talk of different things like faces, art, landscape? Or is everything you find beautiful characterized by something similar?

Beautiful is anything that creates a positive inner movement. Different things that I find beautiful might make me feel differently, sometimes I feel warm inside, sometimes fluttery with excitement, sometimes clam, but as long as the feeling is positive, it’s beauty.

I have two patterns when it comes to beauty; clarity and love. When an idea is expressed as completely as possibly with no redundancy – that’s beautiful (and especially applicable on math and computer code). Also, the people, things and landscapes I love, I do find beautiful

2) Is there something that you find beautiful that is an exception to the above definition or which lacks the above characteristic/s?

Nothing that I can think of.

3) Do you make a distinction between aesthetically pleasing (or appealing to the senses) and beautiful? Can you call something one without it being the other? Is something that is aesthetically pleasing to you also defined by the characteristics described above?

“Aesthetically pleasing” is something I feel in my head, my brain realizes that “Oh, this has been put together with great care, how very well done”. “Beautiful” I feel in my heart or stomach area, it bypasses the brain and goes straight to my heart or guts.

 4) Do you have physical reactions to beauty? (e.g. eyes opening wide, tears etc)

Yes, I smile (most usual), I might also get tear-eyed or forget to breathe for a little while.

 5) Could you list examples of ‘things’ you find beautiful under the following categories

 a) Painting/Sculpture 

This Kay Nielsen image:  (that I found after reading Suzannes blog post mentioning Kay Nielsen lately)


Alphonse Muchas


b) Perfume c) Smell

I often find perfumes and smells beautiful. Most recently it was Serge Lutens “Bois et Fruits”. I love how it emits the feeling of fondling a perfectly ripe plum, succulent, mouth watering, catching the equilibrium between sweet flesh and tart skin. (And I can give many many more examples about beauty in perfume 🙂 )

Perfumes can be beautiful in themselves (like Bois et Fruits) but they also have the extra feature that they can trigger memories, make me find forgotten stashes of love within myself, which adds an extra dimension of beauty. I rarely experience this with other mediums. Of course, this is a double edged sword, they can also bring up bad memories which will make me like them less.

d) Male Face e) Female Face

What faces I find the most beautiful: a very easy question to answer, my two children. There are many beautiful persons in the world, but I find it very unlikely that I’ll ever come across a person I’ll be more happily content watching hours after hours than my kids 🙂


f) Music from your own country g) Music from a foreign country

I think with music, I might be suffering from some kind of burn out syndrome. I practiced violin throughout my childhood.**  When I was practicing the violin there was always very much tension and competitiveness. My connection to the beauty of the music itself got lost and I haven’t reconnected. Maybe I’ll do one day when I’ve worked my way through enough issues or maybe I never was very musically gifted in the first place 😉

h) Landscape

The vastness of the Icelandic landscape. As there are hardly no trees and the air is extremely pure, you can see how the volcanic mountain ridges stretch for miles and miles into the distance.


Other Things

Pieces of software that very clearly and efficiently solve a certain task, with no unnecessary overhead. (I’m a programmer and this was actually the first thing I thought of)

How mathematic formulas can exactly describe a situation.

When my children express affection for one another (and, really, when anyone shows affection and love toward something/someone)

6)*  Is there a piece of art (or ‘thing’ or face) that you find particularly beautiful even though you are in the clear minority in that opinion? If so, could you discuss it and explain why it appeals to you?

That would be the computer code and math mentioned above. In my opinion, math doesn’t turn interesting enough to be labeled beautiful until at University level. Most people don’t stick with it that far. If more did, I’m sure there would be more people seeing it’s beauty 🙂

7) Is there something that is renowned to be beautiful that either doesn’t appeal to you or that you don’t find beautiful? Could you explain why?

I like to listen to and enjoy music but I very seldom find it to be beautiful. When I was younger I was forced to play the violin for many years and I ended up being rather good but I never loved playing and I never did it for my own enjoyment. Now when I listen to music, I can admire it from a technical point of view and sometimes it feels nice to have some background noise, but I can not compare the feelings I have for music with, say, the feelings I have for other people, perfume or visual arts.

I received Laurie’s and Sigrun’s responses in quick succession and thought it quite the coincidence that both of them mentioned the beauty in Math. I also found the relationship Sigrun has with music particularly interesting, and wonder whether that applies to a specific kind of music or to all music in general.

** Sigrun wants to makes sure no one thinks playing the violin is a harmful hobby to take up..:)

* Question 6 was suggested by Suzanne

Picture Credits

Pictures of Sigrun Olafsdottir via Sigrun
Picture of Kay Neilson image via Tumbler
Picture of Muchas print via App State
Pictures of Sigrun's kids via Sigrun
Picture of Icelandic landscape via pictures-iceland


  1. “Perfumes can be beautiful in themselves (like Bois et Fruits) but they also have the extra feature that they can trigger memories, make me find forgotten stashes of love within myself…”

    Wow. This is the reason I became besotted with Sigrun many moons ago. Well, this, and the utterly enchanting, comic and sophisticated way she writes her perfume reviews. (Lavanya, you summed it up very well at the start of this post.)

    I also loved Sigrun’s discussion of the difference between what is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, with the beautiful thing bypassing the brain and going straight to her heart or guts. Yes, beauty has incredible speed and directness, doesn’t it? I hadn’t realized it until she said that, but that’s so true for me, too.

    I could go on and on here, because I found out such interesting things about Sigrun I didn’t know – and because I love seeing her and the photo of her kids. Thank you, Lavanya, for including her in your poll!

    • Re: aesthetically pleasing vs beautiful, I did find that trend where most people answering this survey seemed to imply what Sigrun explicitly and very aptly said.

      Of course I had to include Sigrun in the poll 😀

  2. Lavanya, thank yo so much for including me, I had such good time thinking up the answers! And you’re right about me and Laurie having very similar answers. I even held off commenting on her post because I couldn’t think of anything to way that wouldn’t have spilled the beans om my post 😉

    • We do have a lot in common, Sigrun! I agree with you about elegant computer code too! Your response to the “aesthetically pleasing vs beautiful” question struck home with me as well.

      Your kids are adorable! It was fun to learn more about you. 🙂 Thanks again, Lavanya, for dreaming up a great topic for a series.

    • Thank YOU for taking the time to participate given your busy schedule!
      I especially liked this statement “I have two patterns when it comes to beauty; clarity and love”. Clarity is a pretty underrated quality sometimes 🙂

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  4. I enjoyed hearing Sigrun’s answers to this question, and her explanation of the difference between ‘aesthetically pleasing’ and ‘beautiful’ was also a highlight for me. “Oh, this has been put together with great care, how very well done” – that is exactly the response to something merely aesthetically pleasing in my book. I would go so far as to say that old Gwyneth P has been ‘put together with great care’!

    Then I am sorry that Sigrun’s playing of the violin in her formative years has meant she doesn’t feel able to enjoy music on any other than a technical level – funnily enough, my ex, who is a professional musician, is of the same view. He also never listens to lyrics, as they don’t do it for him either, whereas I could be affected by the song or the words. 😉

    • I loved how all these responses regarding beauty (including yours) have helped me refine and articulate my own thoughts. Even when my definitions differ.

      That is interesting about your ex. Does he feel like that about all music or only the kind he plays?

    • Haha, that thing about Gwyneth Paltrow was extremely funny! And no worries about me and the violin thing, if it hadn’t been that it had been something else. Thank god my parents never pressured me into becoming a perfumer 😉

  5. I totally agree about code. Czech grammar is beautiful in the same way; for historical reasons they made it perfectly logical when they finally wrote it down, whereas actual usage has the same “flaws” as all other languages.

      • This makes me shortlist Czech as a language to learn if I’m ever to learn another language 🙂 And it makes me think of another language that I find beautiful – Thai. They have grammar constructions that cleverly bypass the things that make learning Anglo-German languages so much work, such as “time” and “genders”.

      • Oh- that is very interesting about Thai. Does the grammar bypass gender in the way English does? And when you say “time”, do you mean that there is no tense?- like ‘is going’, ‘was going’ etc?

      • They have 3 genders and 7 cases. So with singular and plural, each word has 42 possible endings – and some words actually make use of almost all of them. I learned them by heart when I was 22. Spoken Czech simplifies it and I’ve heard that young TV presenters nowadays tend to drop the endings altogether.

  6. Another wonderful instalment. I don’t want this series to end!

    I echo others – Sigrum really got to the heart of the difference between aesthetically pleasing and beautiful. It’s also great that she is able to see the beauty in Math and computer code.

    Great pic of her gorgeous children too.

  7. Natalie

    What a wonderful interview. I am a complete convert to the Icelandic landscape as well, Sigrun. I can’t wait to go back. 🙂

    • The next ‘respondent’ also raves about the Icelandic landscape. I really want to visit! Was Iceland part of your summer vacation destinations?
      Maybe it’s time for a gathering of perfumistas in Iceland? ;-).

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