Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fragonard: The Fragrance Kind

Since I could go one of two ways with the name Fragonard, we are going to have to revisit it at a later date in order to cover both important topics:  the artist and the topic for today, the perfumery.

Fragrance has been around as long, longer than mankind.  Plants and their scents that we know and understand today have been a part of our history forever.  Think lavender, basil, mint. Herbs that have been used for centuries as herbal remedies or offerings to gods have been with us so long that we take them so for granted and yet they at times were more precious than gold.
The world perfume is derived from Latin per (through) and fume (to smoke) illustrating how the first perfumes were obtained from the burning of wood, resins and other mixtures to create scent.  Odd to think that once again pre-history and antiquity were way ahead of our game.  As we found out yesterday, they were eating escargot in their loin clothes and togas.  Now this!!

It wasn't until the 19th century that perfume making and the entire industry saw huge growth. Modern discoveries and industrialization made it much easier to mass produce either natural or synthetic essences allowing chemists to create a multitude of scents.  Originally found in bath salts and sachets, the invention of the atomizer by French author Brillat-Savarin, made it possible to dispense spirit or distilled products and, hence, perfume as we know it today.  

One company that has been in this highly competitive and unlike any other business since 1791 is Fragonard.  Founded in Grasse, which is the perfume capital of the world, the company took their name in honor of the other Fragonard, painter Jean-Honoré, and has been creating fragrances, bath soaps and cosmetics ever since.  In addition, they have made available numerous museums throughout France and Paris that are open to the public to illustrate the incredible history of perfume.  I have read much about this topic and cannot do it justice in a short blog post.  At the end, I will send you off on your own little journey to delve deeper if you desire.

Paris is home to not one, but two history of perfume museums owned by Fragonard.  The one on rue Scribe in the 9th arrondisement is housed in an elegant town home built in 1860 and will take you back to that exact moment in time.

The second location in the 2nd arrondissement is the antithesis of its sibling.  Sleek and contemporary, it offers a subtle backdrop to vintage perfume bottles and distillation equipment that allows them to be set off and enjoyed for what they are with little distraction.  I love how the French can go either way--elaborate and historic or cutting edge and modern--and both work beautifully. 

These do not require lengthy museum stays and one can certainly tuck a quick visit into their itinerary.  The wonderful thing is they are located near other sites of interest which makes access to them easy and are a perfect way to round out a busy day.  

Additional information:  Fragonard 

                                             Le musée de parfum
                                             9 rue Scribe
                                             Métro: Opéra

                                             Le theatre des Capucines museum
                                             39 blvd des Capucines
                                             Métro: Opéra
                                             The Perfect Scent

                                             Perfumes:  The Guide

Photo credit:  Fragonard


Phivos Nicolaides said...

Oh dear Kim, your post reminded me that I have to write about Grasse, France! Thank you Kim.

Kim said...

Get to it mister!! Can't wait to read all about it as I haven't made it there yet!