The origin of smells and perfumes in history

Smells in history

The transformation of the look at the body was emerging from the middle of the 17th century, with the return of soap and water to cleanliness care, it was noted. It is then accentuated, at an unknown pace, which awaits its historian. She triumphed in the 1750s. The date in no way indicates the sudden start of a new revolution in smells. On the contrary, it marks the moment when the latter definitively imposes itself, at the end of a slow silent maturation.

The mutation is essentially based on the rejection of fragrances of animal origin, with very strong exhalations, whose omnipresence, up to the tips of the gloved fingers, previously invited to a torrid eroticism. In 1693, the perfumer Barbe still gave them an eminent place in his treaty. Then gradually established a real disgust for these very expensive exotic products, often imitated by counterfeiters, whose strong scent had ended up inconvening. We understand it better by remembering that they conveyed emanations more or less close to those of human: died in 1541, didn't the Swiss doctor and astrologer Paracelsus propose a secret to transform the latter into a "civette or western musk".

Published in 1764, the year of the disappearance of Madame de Pompadour, Antoine Hornot's Treatise on Smells, known as Dejean, makes it possible to clarify things. The author points out the decheance of amber and musk, although they are always good that they are always considered as the origin of perfumes in the profession

After strong smells as amber and musk, civette...

To try to restore a little luster to this "almost forgotten" formula, just like its variant, Cyprus water, whose lovers have become rare, perfumer advises to take iris root, storax, rosewood, benzoin flower, citrine sandalwood, Calamus aromatious (odorous jone). Then, "to conform to today's taste, you must completely remove the musk, and put only a few drops of amber quintessence, to better bring out the other smells", those of rose and orange blossom water, added before distillation. Elsewhere, he admits that amber is "in a kind of forgetfulness", but still has his supporters.

Using civet or musk would prevent it from returning to fashion, while "very little amber brings out the mixtures admirably well", As for the civet, it was still in use "about forty years ago, but since then this smell has lost all its credit, especially in France". The famous milleflower water, which "the ancients" made with cow dung, was subsequently composed with muse, amber and civette. He himself proposes to use only flowers, plus sixty drops of amber quintessence, to produce 8 pints, For a long time, he assures, we have only had orange blossom and rose waters, Now add those of spices, for the kitchen, as well

Than those of bark fruits, widely used by perfumers in their liquid pastes, by liquor manufacturers, by ladies in clean baths, or even to put one or two drops by rubbing their hands.


The revolution of smells

The revolution of smells is obvious. Dejean already proclaimed in 1764 that the trade has become an art, because he frequently designates his colleagues as artists and intended his simplest advice to "amateurs". His curious spirit makes him draw "old" details from the works of Nicolas Lémery or Nicolas de Blégny, which allows him to define the originalities of his time, through a historical vision dating back to the 1680s.

It seems that we can follow him with confidence when he highlights the disaffection for the civette since the 1720s, the loss of interest in the muse and the need to use amber sparingly, as a base note, one would say nowadays.

from the civilization of smells R Muchembled the beautiful letters 2017