Who better to reveal all the secrets of perfume making than the family behind not only one of the oldest perfumeries in France, but one of the world’s most famous?
La Maison Fragonard, founded in 1926 in the charming small town of Grasse on the chic Côte d’Azur opened its first Perfume Museum in Paris in 1983. Located in a superb Napoleon-III-style private mansion, the museum, which is still open to the public, is located at 9 rue Scribe. A few hundred meters away is the second museum founded in 2015 in the former Théâtre Éden, just a stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier – no less.
The two museums in Paris, not counting the one in Grasse, reveal Fragonard’s desire to pass on its heritage. The Fragonard Perfume Museum located at 3-5 Square de l’Opéra Louis Jouvet has been designed to educate by tracing the history of perfume, a true symbol of French chic, from ancient Egypt to the present day. Immerse yourself in the world of perfume through a didactic path and a staging that will reveal everything about this object of desire, elegance, glamour and luxury. From the choice of raw materials to the bottling and creation of the label to the selection and distillation of the ingredient, the museum displays all the techniques in the perfume making process.
In the meantime, here are 5 things you might not have known about the museum and that will surely make you want to visit it.
1. Do you know where the name Fragonard comes from?
The name Fragonard was given to the Perfume House in honor of the famous painter from Grasse, Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The name was chosen to celebrate the artistic and cultural heritage of an eighteenth-century art marked by the refinement and elegance of Fragonard perfumes.
2. A family of perfumers
Fragonard is a family-run perfumery founded by Eugène Fuchs in 1926. It was then taken over by his son Georges Fuchs and son-in-law François Costa. A great art lover, Costa eventually amassed a particular collection of art objects related to perfumery. This collection has been preserved and expanded by his daughters who now run the show, preserving the ancestral know-how and spirit of the twentieth-century French perfumery.
3. A unique worldwide collection of art objects related to the world of perfume
Jean-François Costa started procuring art objects related to perfumery in 1950, and his collection is so vast that it is spread among the three Fragonard perfume museums, letting patrons plunge fully into the universe of perfume and to see its history from antiquity to today. Discover a Mesopotamian kohl vase from a time when perfume was used for religious purposes but was also considered an attribute of beauty. Contemplate bottles worthy of the most beautiful jewels, decorated with gold and diamonds. Learn about the various functions attributed to perfume. You will have the chance, for example, to discover a pomander with six quarters from the Middle Ages, when it was believed that perfume could repel major outbreaks. Lastly, do not miss the bottles made by famous early twentieth-century glassmakers in collaboration with haute-couture houses for Fragonard.
4. An early twentieth-century factory
At the museum, you can explore a veritable cabinet of curiosities that houses a whole host of ancient objects used in the past to make perfume. You will also discover surprising objects such as an impressive perfumer’s organ. The atmosphere evokes that of an early-twentieth-century perfume factory. Walk under the metal structure of the Eiffel workshop amid the copper stills and maceration tanks, and admire an impressive blender from a perfume factory in Grasse.
5. A museum that puts your nose to the test
After having learned a little more about the history and making of perfume, see what it’s like to be a perfumer via a free olfactory game offered at the end of the tour. If you wish to make your visit exceptional, you can participate in one of the “apprentice perfumer” workshops. Awaken your senses and your olfactory memory during an original and fun sensory experience lasting one and a half hours, and conclude the workshop by creating your own cologne to take home.
Photo credit: [smeikx] on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND