Perfume And Fragrances : Versailles

The use of fragrance at the Versailles court reached intoxicating levels. The makers of gloves, fragrances and powders became organized and developed their trade.

Versailles became a bright beacon, dictating its fashions, customs and practices. Montpellier and Grasse vied with each other for the culture of medicinal herbs and flowers such as carnation, violet, jasmin, rose, tuberose as well as lavender.

Fragrance compositions consisted solely of natural ingredients, of resins, leaves, peels and blossoms that were treated in a variety of ways to capture their fragrant principles. One well-known technique was to place plant parts in alcohol to produce so-called tinctures or infusions. If blossoms were placed in animal fat to produce perfumed pomades, the process was called "enfleurage".

The seventeenth century brought with it "Eau de Cologne" – "Cologne Water" – whose "recipe" had been brought to Germany by a young Italian named Farina.

In 1732, when the Italian Giovanni Maria Farina took over his uncle's business in Cologne, (the French name given to the German city, Kِln), he produced aqua admirabilis, a lively blend of neroli, bergamot, lavender and rosemary in rectified grape spirit. This was splashed on the skin, and also used for treating sore gums and indigestion.

French soldiers stationed in Cologne dubbed it "Eau de Cologne" or "Cologne Water", and Napoleon is said to have gone through several bottles a day. Other fashionable fragrances included rose, violet and patchouli, which were used on the imported Indian shawls made popular by Napoleon's famous consort, Josephine.

Napoleon is said to have had two quarts of violet cologne delivered to him each week, and he used sixty bottles of double extract of jasmine every month. Josephine had stronger perfume preferences. She was partial to musk, and she used so much that the scent still lingered in her boudoir sixty years after her death.

Farina's blend of neroli, bergamot, lavender and rosemary in rectified grape spirit went on to spread throughout Europe – however not just as a fragrance, but also as a cure-all for both external and internal use.

During this time there was much confusion about the legal distinction of the makers of perfume and the external and internal medicinal use of perfumes. It was left to Napoleon to clear up the confusion and under his reign a legal and clear distinction was declared between the professions of "Perfumer" and "Pharmacist".

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