The historical past of French fragrance

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 November 2020 | UPDATED: 09:01 16 November 2020

French perfume makes a great gift  (c) sanddebeautheil / Getty Images

French fragrance makes an ideal reward (c) sanddebeautheil / Getty Photographs


Pondering of shopping for French fragrance for a Christmas current? Uncover how the Aristocracy in France began the development for French fragrances

Discuss of French fragrance, and Chanel N°5 or the city of Grasse within the south of France are more likely to be talked about. However what if we glance additional again to its origins? Poetically captured in Patrick Süskind’s bestselling 1985 novel Fragrance, France has lengthy been synonymous with the artwork of perfumery. Its origins can truly be traced again so far as 7000 BC, the place pottery vessels have been created within the Center East to hold fragrances constituted of pure oils and resins.

In Historic Egypt, the strategies of maceration (capturing aromas in solvents together with oils and fat) have been already developed, whereas incenses and smells have been utilized in rituals and by the royal household. Nevertheless, it was not till round 2000 BC that fragrances grew to become extra fashionable and certainly secular.

Bottles of ingredients for perfume in Grasse, south of France (c) aprott / Getty ImagesBottles of substances for fragrance in Grasse, south of France (c) aprott / Getty Photographs

Leather-based and unwashed our bodies

France’s personal aromatic historical past started because the Renaissance courtroom introduced Italian tastes to the nation within the 16th century. In the course of the Center Ages, glove-making and leather-based tanning had change into huge enterprise in France, however the stench created by the tanning course of left the top end result considerably aromatic, and never in a great way.


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Catherine de’ Medici’s arrival in France from her native Italy after her marriage to Henri II in 1533 may arguably be seen as the start of French perfumery. Gifted with scented gloves, Catherine began a trend that grew with the reign of Louis XV within the 18th century. Louis’ cour parfumée demanded new and progressive fragrances for each residence and particular person, persevering with the style began within the Renaissance for utilizing scents to masks the odour of habitually unwashed our bodies.

As Süskind wrote so eloquently in Fragrance: “the peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his grasp’s spouse, the entire of the aristocracy stank, even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an previous goat, summer time and winter.”

The beautiful town of Grasse is home to an international perfume museum (c) phbcz / Getty ImagesThe gorgeous city of Grasse is residence to a global fragrance museum (c) phbcz / Getty Photographs

Grasse: Fragrance capital

Quickly the flower-growing trade of Grasse and the encompassing space which had begun within the 14th century blossomed to produce the demand. There was a museum devoted to perfumery in Grasse since 1921. The Musée Worldwide de la Parfumerie opened in 1989 and has now grown to over twice the dimensions, with objects and collections tracing the historical past of the trade that has so formed the world by means of 1000’s of years. Each museum and gardens are fascinating and well worth a visit. Grasse Jasmine Pageant is often held in early August whereas Expo Rose is mid-Could.

Even as soon as clear water and private hygiene habits modified for the much less malodorous, fragrance continued to be part of French life. Napoleon was reputed to be an enormous consumer of perfume, with two quarts of violet cologne delivered to him each week, whereas Empress Joséphine used such a robust scent that her residences have been mentioned to nonetheless odor of it many years after her demise.

Lately, France stays the non secular residence of perfumery. Accounting for the best share of export gross sales of perfume (value €4.86 billion, 26% of the worldwide whole), French firms equivalent to L’Oréal and Chanel nonetheless embody the scent of success.


Extra French Historical past

A history of French fashion

Reel Life – the history of French cinema

A French icon: the Tricolore

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