French town re-opens perfume museum
The International Perfume Museum re-opens in Grasse, the former centre of France’s perfume industry.
21 October 2008
GRASSE -- From ancient Egyptian incense to Mesopotamian ointments and lotions from medieval France, a newly re-opened French museum traces perfume's past.
"The history of perfume is not only that of the industry linked to fashion or luxury, in which France has become the main player", said the curator of the International Perfume Museum, which re-opened earlier in October in Grasse, near Cannes in the south of France.
"Since antiquity, perfume has also been at the crossroads of therapeutics, cosmetics, cuisine, even sacred" uses, said Marie-Christine Grasse, according to whom the museum offers a unique collection.
While the Provence town that hosts the museum is no longer the centre of the perfume industry, officials hope it will now serve as a hub of its history.
After three years of renovations, the museum was transformed from a collection housed in an 18th century mansion to a modern exhibit of artifacts spread throughout new inter-connected buildings.
Once the home of nobility, the mansion lies at the centre of architect Frederic Jung's complex. The building mixes old style with modern, mouldings with contemporary glasswork.
The actual size of the display area was doubled to 3,000 square metres and some 3,000 artifacts of the total collection of 50,000 objects are on display.
The chronological, interactive and sense-driven tour of perfumery is presented along three themes: seduction, healing and communication.
The collection's centrepiece is an 80-kilogramme "travel" vanity case once owned by Marie-Antoinette, the French queen well-known for her extravagant tastes.
Built out of mahogany and leather, the case contains compartments and drawers holding brushes and tools for the queen's beauty regime.
The story of perfumery continues in rooms devoted to the 19th century beginnings of the industry, in which Grasse played a major role.
The town's name will be familiar to viewers of "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer", a film based on a novel by German writer Patrick Suskind which follows a young perfumier's search for the ultimate odour.
Grasse was a global centre for producing natural extracts from the jasmine, rose and orange blossom plantations around its’ borders.
The majority of extracts today come from outside France, but Grasse maintained an important role in creating perfumes and food flavours.
Creations from Grasse, where specialists use the museum's large research library, account for more than half of France's sales in these industries.
Perfume professionals in the region, many of whom are partners in the project, hope the museum will give them a chance to influence the industry's past and present.
[AFP / Expatica]