One of ourÂ new additions in the shop is the wonderful line of Fragonard soaps and perfumes; a worldwide known Perfume maker! Come for yourself to embrace our wonderful new scents! Â Here is a little history:
Perfume in Antiquity and Middle Ages
An âindustryâ as old as mankind
The word âperfumeâ is derived from the Latin per (through) and fumare (to smoke) because, long before the use of modern techniques, the first perfumes were obtained by burning woods, resins and other complex mixtures. Humans have always been exposed to smells. We can suppose that it was around a fire that our earliest ancestors discovered what smells they could produce by throwing herbs, leaves or twigs of different plant species into the flames. The use of perfume is contemporary, therefore, with the development of the first towns and its purpose was mainly religious, to communicate with the gods and enable the dead to join the hereafter, particularly for the Egyptians.
Egypt: the ancient centre of perfume
Of all the ancient civilizations, Egypt has left the greatest mark on the history of perfume. By the end of the Roman Empire, with Romeâs political and economic powers waning, Alexandria, with its guilds of renowned perfumers and alchemists, still played a key role in the world of perfume. While it is incorrect to state that the ancient Egyptians used perfume solely for religious and funeral rites, perfume was an essential feature of these mystical ceremonies.
The funeral rite of embalming required large quantities of myrrh, balm and perfumed oil. These funeral practices, together with the offering and inhaling of perfume, illustrate the ancient Egyptians desire to move closer to the world of the Gods by escaping the inevitable decay of mortal remains. Similarly, priests also applied some of these balms to the statues of Gods. Most perfume and incense was produced from flowers, particularly blue water lily, marjoram and iris, resins from the terebinth tree (turpentine), balsam tree (myrrh), benjamin tree (benzoin) and rockrose tree (labdanum).
The Egyptians never restricted their use of perfume to purely religious purposes. Although some perfumes were reserved for ritual use, others were used in daily life for healing, adornment and the improvement of home life. Not only were perfumes essential for rituals and medicine, Egyptian men and women also used them extensively for adornment.
Greece: the beginnings of hygiene and the cult of the body
As in many other fields, Egypt and the East passed on their knowledge of perfume to the Greeks via the maritime trade routes of the Cretans and Phoenicians. The Greeks imported the necessary raw materials, from Africa and the East, through their trading posts dotted around the Mediterranean and eventually became experts in preparing perfumed products.
As with the Ancient Egyptians, perfume remained sacred to the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology even explains the origins of particular fragrances as disputes among the Gods.
However, the Greekâs interest in perfume also included the realm of medicine and personal hygiene. The cult of the body, both male and female, which developed in Ancient Greece, is inextricably intertwined with the world of perfume.
The Middle Ages and barbarian influences
Rome: from austerity to an orgy of the senses
In just over one thousand years, Rome grew from a small farming village to the undisputed world capital. As Romeâs power and influence grew, its morals were also radically altered. The Republic managed to maintain a certain austerity for a while but eventually yielded to luxury with the discovery of oriental refinement and perfumes.
Public baths attracted a large number of Romans and body care was practiced throughout the rich classes of Ancient Rome. Scents, room perfumes, oils and balms for skin and hair, and spicy aromas from refined dishes were all important parts of Roman life. This profusion in fragrance use caused the moralists of the period to condemn the excessive use of perfume.
From The Renaissance to The Enlightenment: the art of concealing embarrassing smells
By the end of the 14th century, liquid perfumes were gradually replacing solid ones. Scented waters, tinctures to be swallowed, were sought after for their medicinal values.
Bathing was considered to be dangerous and unhealthy, and consequently aristocrats used increasing amounts of perfume to conceal the embarrassing odors of their ill-washed bodies. Strong, heady perfumes, such as amber, musk, jasmine and tuberose, persistent enough to cover-up bad odors were en vogue. Similarly, the fragrance used in perfumed gloves brought to France by Queen Catherine de’ Medici from her native Tuscany masked the unpleasant smell of poorly tanned leather.
The association of leather and perfume was so strong that in 1656 the Corporation of Glovemakers and Perfumers was formed in France. Under Louis XIV, nicknamed âsweetest smelling king of allâ, this guild was granted the monopoly of perfume distribution, which had previously belonged to apothecaries and druggists.
Strong demand for perfumed products, mainly imported from Italy, encouraged France to develop its own perfume industry. The Grasse region, in the south of France, which enjoyed a favorable climate and local support from the Montpellier faculty of pharmacy, began to specialize in both aromatic raw materials and the actual production of perfume.
The age of Enlightenment saw a major expansion in perfumery products. Scented waters gave way to toilet vinegars and bathing gradually came back into favor. As flasks adapted to these new products, vinaigrettes, handy recipients for sweet-scented vinegars, were produced.
The French court was the undisputed model of refinement and elegance throughout Europe and eventually France became the home of the greatest perfume makers and most innovative perfumes. While Paris was the capital of trade in perfumed products, the town of Grasse, with its extensive fields of jasmine and rose, became the capital of production.
It was during this period that Grasse began to acquire its worldwide reputation for the diversity and quality of its production.