We’re delighted to see so many museums re-opening, and now anxiously await the launch of the new Makeup Museum in New York – a place we want to visit even more now we know that Givaudan have created a special 1950’s-inspired fragrance to scent the space…
Having signed up as an official sponsor, Givaudan were comissioned to make a fragrance to set the scene for the Makeup Museum’s debut exhibition, entitled ‘Pink Jungle: 1950s Makeup in America.’
Emily Bond, head of Fine Fragrance North America at Givaudan, explains the reason they’re making this a multi-sensory space is because, ‘Perfume has always been an integral part of beauty. It is important to showcase fragrance in this exhibit.’
‘We want people to know the story behind a fragrance,’ Bond continues, something that digs deeper than just a pretty bottle and shows ‘Who created it, how it’s developed, and how techniques have evolved over the years.’
It was Givaudan Perfumer Caroline Sabas who was tasked with creating the perfume, and she’s made an exclusive 1950s-inspired fragrance, suitably named ‘Pink Jungle’, which will be used to scent the exhibition space.
But what will the perfume smell like, we wonder? Well both Givaudan and The Makeup Museum aren’t revealing the notes as yet, so as not to spoil the scented surprise, but you can head to our fragrance history page for the 1950s to read about the types of fragrances popular then, which may well provide us with some clues.
Our next question is: will we be able to buy the fragrance to fully live our glamorous 1950s boudoir dreams? We’re certainly crossing our fingers and praying to the perfume gods!
Imagine being able to smell Cleopatra’s actual perfume – time travelling through the sense of smell. Well, thanks to the work of historians, now perhaps you can…
If the art of ancient perfumery was to have a ‘face’, a fragrant figurehead, it would surely be Cleopatra. As legend tells it, she had the the sails of her boat coated with fragrant oils before setting to sea: ‘The perfumes diffused themselves to the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes.’ Her idea was that Mark Antony would get a waft of her arrival even before he caught sight of her. Suffice to say: she wasn’t shy about scent.
Cleopatra reportedly used fragrance to seduce Mark Antony, with even the floor of her boudoir strewn with roses – some say ankle deep in them – leading a scented trail to her bed. Clearly a believer in ‘more is more’.
As Shakespeare put it:
‘The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water; the poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them…
… From the barge, a strange invisible perfume hits the sense…’ (Which neatly explains the name of a niche Californian fragrance brand, Strange Invisible Perfumes, NB.)
Robert Littman and Jay Silverstein of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa have been investigating the perfumes of the ancient world for years, with the focus of their research the scent that Cleopatra herself might have worn. The fragrant journey began with the discovery of an ancient Egyprian perfume ‘factory’, at the Tell Timai excavation project at the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thmuis, founded in 4,500 B.C.
Subsequent excavation at the site revealed kilns dating from the third century B.C. used to produce perfume bottles during both the pre-Roman period and the Roman occupation period. They also uncovered original amphorae with residual evidence of the ingredients used to make the perfumes _ the first time they have been uncovered in over 2,000 years. And although the ingredients no longer retained their smell, chemical analysis revealed exactly what they were…
Myrrh, olive oil, cinnamon, and cardamom formed the basis of the scent, and it would have been worn as a thick, resinious oil. Although it was first discoevered in 2015, it’s not until now the fragrance has been recreated, leading one of the di’s leaders, Robert Littman from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, Littman to comment: ‘What a thrill it is to smell a perfume that no one has smelled for 2,000 years and one which Cleopatra might have worn.’
Littman also, rather tellingly, claimed the scent found at the factory would have been ‘the Chanel No.5 of ancient Egypt.’ And we must wonder if, in fact, the Queen of Egypt would have worn a fragrance produced en-masse in a factory. Indeed, perfumer Mandy Aftel, who has researched the subject significantly, claims that ‘Cleopatra made perfume herself in a personal workshop,’ said Aftel, going on to explain that ‘People have tried to recreate her perfume, but I don’t think anybody knows for sure what she used.’
Well, although we wont get to know exactly what Cleopatra’s favourite fragrance was, but it’s perhaps likely members of her inner circle and the royal court wore the recreated scent; and at least we know the materials they favoured. Until then, we suggest you create your own scented trail. And if not exactly covering your bedroom floor in rose petals and scenting ship’s sails – maybe adding a few extra spritzes, just to be sure…
The perfume based on finding from the Tell-El Timai dig is on display at the Queens of Egypt exhibition by the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC until September 15.
Imagine how thrilled we were to be invited to a prestigious gathering of press, buyers and distributors from around the world on an enchanting voyage with The Merchant of Venice – to celebrate the birthplace of fine perfumery and the launch of their most recent perfume: Rosa Moceniga – a scent with an intriguing tale of rediscovering the lost rose of Joséphine Bonaparte. Join us – and swoon at the pictures! – as we recount our journey…
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and birthplace to perhaps the earliest commercial appreciation of fine perfume – the moment when Catherine de Medici married King Henry II was a turning point in modern culture. Travelling to France with her huge retinue, she imported the taste for previously unheard of Italian luxuries: perfume (and Royal perfumers from her court), a fork for eating with, ballet and extravagant Italian fashions.
With turquoise canals casting shimmering reflections on golden buildings of sun-bleached grandeur, everywhere seems softly lit, as though by candlelight. Arriving at Marco Polo airport and travelling to the city, you’re immediately on the water in a Vaporetto (taxi boat) and living La Dolce Vita. It’s impossible not to be overcome with the incredible romance of it all – surrounded on all sides by history, feeling as though you have stepped straight in to a Canaletto painting.
Venetians are fiercely proud of their heritage as a great trade route – the destination and meeting point of merchants from all over the new world, desperate to attain shipfuls of oppulence to carry back and trade within their own lands. As such, it’s the perfect home for the perfume house fittingly named The Merchant of Venice. Trading, themselves, not only on the heritage of perfumery but turning that love into exquisitely presented and diverse, contemporary scents.
Owned by the passionately perfume-obsessed Vidal family, the brand is one of several distributed by Mavive – established in 1986 by Massimo Vidal, and currently under the careful stewardship of the third and fourth generation of the Vidal family. With their headquarters in Venice, Mavive is intimately connected with this truly unique city – and for us, they threw open the doors to celebrate their 30th anniversary while proudly showing us their fragrant wares.
One of the many culturally significant projects the Vidal family have concerned themselves with is the careful preservation of the largest collections of perfume flacons (dating back before Christ!), perfume-making equipment and related materials in existence.
Taking on ownership of the magnificent Palazzo Mocenigo in the heart of Venice, they turned what was once a slightly crumbling textile museum into the Museo del Profumo – displaying perfume bottles, raw materials and ancient manuscripts in themed settings around the palace – most of them on full public view rather than shut away in cabinets.
Touring the Palazzo with the eloquent son of the family, Marco Vidal, was like stepping back in time, with each fabulously evocative room scented as they would have been, with distinctive perfumes made to ancient recipes diffusing the atmosphere with clouds of fragrance.
So significant is this collection, students from ISIPCA – the famous perfume accademy in France – travel to the Palazzo to complete their final studies in the history of perfumery. As do textile students – the Vidal family have maintained and added to the costume collection, with over 35,000 pieces – and makeup historians, for yet another floor is dedicated to cosmetics. Truly a must-visit for any fragrance (or costume/makeup) fantatic!
After our mind-blowing tour of the luxuriously and sympathetically refurbished rooms, we finally got to hear the story behind their latest launch – Rosa Moceniga. Marco introduced Andrea di Robilant, author of Chasing the Rose, framed by an archway of rambling roses amidst the main hallway of the Palazzo and eager to tell us his part in this intriguing tale… Andrea explained that while rummaging through his family’s papers for research during his autobiography of his great-great-great-great grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, he found genuine treasure: a description of a once-lost rose that smelled of peach and raspberries – symbol of a deep friendship between Lucia and Joséphine Bonapart, the precious cutting a gift to a fellow rose-lover.
What began as a light-hearted search for the bloom led to years of further research and finally, stumbling across that very rose in the now completely wild and overgrown gardens in Venice. A chance meeting with Marco Vidal led to the realisation their stories were now intimately connected – the Vidals owned the Palazzo the rose was named for, and not only that – they made perfumes. Their fragrant future was sealed, and now Rosa Moceniga blooms once more with every spritz of this beautiful scent…
And what does the final perfume smell like? Romantically nodding to the past but with its head firmly in the present, this lush flower bouquet is sheer as the finest silk scarf with fresh Sicilian lime and blackcurrant leaves garlanding the main event – that delicately fruity, luminous rose. Definite notes of peach and raspberry entwine with softly powdered cedar and amber for a magnificently elegant dry down. Venetian history infused with that golden sunlight and bottled.
The final day included a trip to the stunning flagship store of The Merchant of Venice. Wood-panelled and with historic books and perfume materials dotted around the walls, the perfumes are presented not merely with paper blotters – oh no. Hand-blown Murano glass sniffing jars are proffered, allowing the notes to blossom as they would on skin and offering a more realistic smelling experience.
In the breathtaking surroundings of Teatro La Fenice – the Venetian Opera House – we were shown films on the history of the Vidal family’s involvement with perfume and the many fragrance houses they are custodians of, before the family themselves took to the stage to give thanks to their many supporters for celebrating their anniversary.
The evening concluded with an olfactory themed banquet in a private room upstairs, saffron sprinkled throughout the courses with abandon and floral cocktails quaffed.
We left in no doubt of the huge significance Venice holds in the heart of perfume history, the great care and attention the Vidal family place on preserving this heritage for future generations to enjoy while greatly expanding their diverse fragrance wardrobes, and the fact that we would most definitely be returning to this incredible city drenched in the culture of scent as soon as we possibly could.
Until then? We’ll be spraying Rosa Moceniga and sighing dreamily at the memories… The Merchant of Venice Rosa Moceniga £120 for 100ml eau de parfum
Buy it exclusively at House of Fraser
Written by Suzy Nightingale
We first met the artist Paul Schütze some years ago, during his Silent Surface exhibition – a gallery of works exploring banned books and the power of words. The centrepiece was a magnificent tome on a plinth, the pages entirely blackened as though burned, and from which the most incredible aroma wafted – the more instense the closer you got. A scent evoking old libraries, dusty pages and fresh ink filled the room, and apparently many visitors asked if they could buy the fragrance itself. Having never seen the exercise as a commercial venture – the aroma as much an artwork as those on the walls – Paul hadn’t really considered such a thing, back then. But how things change…
Fascinated by the ability of aroma to provoke distinct emotions and long-distant memories, Paul began working even more closely with the concept of integrating artworks and instillations with our innate sense of smell – an unseen hand of the artist. Last year, Paul collaborated with Sir John Soane’s Museum on a candlelit tour devoted to exploring the sensorial heritage of the house, with Paul using aromas to evoke the sense of the family having just left the room – olfactory time-travel, if you will.
While still working on his music and stunning photography (seriously, have a look at his Instagram account for a taste of the visual treats), Paul worked extensively on creating exquisite formulas, himself – transforming his fragrance dreams into a reality, while slowly traversing the tricky areas of perfume regulations.
Now, the trio of fragrances have been realised – each of them chosen to describe a moment in time recalled by the artist ‘for it’s unique particularity’. And there’s no doubting these fragrances are unique.
Behind the Rain: black pepper, conifer, olibanum, grapefruit, lentisque, linden, moss, patchouli, sweet fennel, vetiver.
The moment of being caught in a Monsoon-like downpour – sheltering beneath a tree on some exotic island’s beach, the petrichor scent of the rain istelf, drenched foliage and sweetly sodden earth, then plants blooming as heat returns and the liquid steams…
An hallucinogenic evocation of one sultry night in Java – the memories of an orchestra playing, their music drifting across the water on the scented breeze; a synaesthetic merging of the senses as sound and smell become one as they swirl around you…
Tears of Eros: ambergris, benzoin, cardamom, cedar, incense, green clementine, guaiac wood, hyacinth, labdanum, orris, pink pepper.
A rememberance of the artist working in his Parisian studio – the smouldering embers of incense from Sanju Sangendo, Kyoto, among discarded clementine skins, the heat releasing the sharp pithy notes along with the juicy freshness of the skin; a potted hyacinth on the window ledge blurring the cool air of the city beyond…
Strikingly characterful and bold, yet hauntingly ethereal, they seem almost to recall the manual method of developing photographic prints themselves – an image deepening with details, shadows emerging as they warm on the skin. Like his artworks, there’s an avant garde starkness shot through with a stately elegance – a way to transcend through scent.
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