THE HISTORY OF FRAGRANCE

James-Craven2

PERFUME – a Prologue by James Craven, The Perfume Activist

“Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?”

The Song of Songs . Ch. 3: v.3

 

Perfume had its origins thousands of years ago, in the form of incense and the smoke of burning sacrifice.

The very word comes from the Latin phrase “per fumum” – ‘through the smoke’ – a neat encapsulation of the original purpose of perfume. It was the food of the old gods; and later of Buddha, Allah and Jehovah. It was the fragranced pathway to heaven; the link between Man and his deities. The Magi brought frankincense and myrrh to worship the Christ Child. Houris in the Islamic Paradise have flesh of camphor, musk, amber and myrrh.

Perfume is universal; it has been known and used in some form in most parts of the world for millenia. It is the entrance to the realms of magic; the gift of Isis the Great Goddess of Spells. To the ancient Egyptians indeed, perfume was even the reviver of the dead; the tool of resurrection. Fragrance is also the pathway of dreams and the gatekeeper of memories.

Over centuries, the fragrances burned to the gods were also used to perfume the secular faculty. Robes and bodies of the priest-kings and their courtiers absorbed the scented fumes of the altars. In just the same way today, oud is burned on braziers to scent hair and garments. The Roman Emperors soaked themselves in oils and unguents of rose, saffron and violet. As the class system developed, scent-wearing spread to the moneyed, the intellectual elite, the artistic scene and thus slowly down the whole social chain until we reach our throughly perfume-democratic year of grace 2019.

Perfume in liquid form was said to have originated in ancient Greece; but this was raw and primitive stuff – resins, incense and flowers macerated in olive oil, wine or river water. By the time of the Middle Ages spirits of alcohol and the arts of distillation were available to hold perfumed oils in suspension.

The medieval Crusaders brought home to Europe many of the scientific innovations and luxurious ingredients of the Near Eastern and Arab cultures. One of our modern perfume families – the Chypre type – is named for the island of Cyprus, reputed birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of erotic love, divinely scented with roses. It was on Cyprus that our Crusader King Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre. In this era, and for centuries to come, perfume was ingested as well as worn: the principle being that what smells good must also work as powerful holistic medicine.

history1
history2

Perfume had its origins thousands of years ago, in the form of incense and the smoke of burning sacrifice.

The very word comes from the Latin phrase “per fumum” – ‘through the smoke’ – a neat encapsulation of the original purpose of perfume. It was the food of the old gods; and later of Buddha, Allah and Jehovah. It was the fragranced pathway to heaven; the link between Man and his deities. The Magi brought frankincense and myrrh to worship the Christ Child. Houris in the Islamic Paradise have flesh of camphor, musk, amber and myrrh.

HISTORY-OF-FRAGRANCE-LANDSCAPE_04

Perfume is universal; it has been known and used in some form in most parts of the world for millenia. It is the entrance to the realms of magic; the gift of Isis the Great Goddess of Spells. To the ancient Egyptians indeed, perfume was even the reviver of the dead; the tool of resurrection. Fragrance is also the pathway of dreams and the gatekeeper of memories.

Over centuries, the fragrances burned to the gods were also used to perfume the secular faculty. Robes and bodies of the priest-kings and their courtiers absorbed the scented fumes of the altars. In just the same way today, oud is burned on braziers to scent hair and garments. The Roman Emperors soaked themselves in oils and unguents of rose, saffron and violet. As the class system developed, scent-wearing spread to the moneyed, the intellectual elite, the artistic scene and thus slowly slowly down the whole social chain until we reach our throughly perfume-democratic year of grace 2019.

HISTORY-OF-FRAGRANCE-BANNER

Perfume in liquid form was said to have originated in ancient Greece; but this was raw and primitive stuff – resins, incense and flowers macerated in olive oil, wine or river water. By the time of the Middle Ages spirits of alcohol and the arts of distillation were available to hold perfumed oils in suspension.

The medieval Crusaders brought home to Europe many of the scientific innovations and luxurious ingredients of the Near Eastern and Arab cultures. One of our modern perfume families – the Chypre type – is named for the island of Cyprus, reputed birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of erotic love, divinely scented with roses. It was on Cyprus that our Crusader King Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre. In this era, and for centuries to come, perfume was ingested as well as worn: the principle being that what smells good must also work as powerful holistic medicine.

HISTORY-OF-FRAGRANCE-LANDSCAPE_02
history4

 

What we think of as modern perfumery emerged only around 170 years ago. It was then that the expanding chemical and allied industries began to supply the essential synthetics which – when artistically, exquisitely and judiciously used by experts – turn a collection of essential oils into a living portrait, a fully-rounded palpitating perfume with a beginning, middle and end. Natural oils are the core and soul of a luxury perfume. Laboratory molecules are – if you will – the varnish, the polish and the liaison. The frame for the painting; the glaze on the porcelain; the pearl sticks of the fan; the egg yolk in the mayonnaise.

One of the major – but often forgotten – differences between perfumery old and new is, that nowadays scent is worn on the skin, just as it was in the ancient civilizations. Whereas for many centuries of the Christian era – right up until the Second World War indeed – perfume in the West was generally applied only to clothing and accessories, furniture and fabrics. Never to the flesh, a practice regarded as impossibly ‘fast’.
The famous cologne advertisement of the 1970 which advised men to ‘splash it all over’ was more revolutionary than is often realised.

What we think of as modern perfumery emerged only around 170 years ago. It was then that the expanding chemical and allied industries began to supply the essential synthetics which – when artistically, exquisitely and judiciously used by experts – turn a collection of essential oils into a living portrait, a fully-rounded palpitating perfume with a beginning, middle and end. Natural oils are the core and soul of a luxury perfume. Laboratory molecules are – if you will – the varnish, the polish and the liaison. The frame for the painting; the glaze on the porcelain; the pearl sticks of the fan; the egg yolk in the mayonnaise.

HISTORY-OF-FRAGRANCE-LANDSCAPE_03

One of the major – but often forgotten – differences between perfumery old and new is, that nowadays scent is worn on the skin, just as it was in the ancient civilizations. Whereas for many centuries of the Christian era – right up until the Second World War indeed – perfume in the West was generally applied only to clothing and accessories, furniture and fabrics. Never to the flesh, a practice regarded as impossibly ‘fast’.
The famous cologne advertisement of the 1970’s which advised men to ‘splash it all over’ was more revolutionary than is often realised.

 

 

Today perfumery is more vibrant, exciting and sophisticated than ever before. It is also much more accessible. Thanks to social media and the internet, scent is increasingly better known, appreciated and understood: a knowledge which has enhanced rather than diminished its eternal mystique. Customers are not only infinitely more numerous but more demanding in their desire for novelty, quality, variety and transparency – all of which keeps perfumers up to the mark. Sourcing of raw materials is more discerning and ethical; methods of production are more precise and exacting; new ingredients and refinements constantly become available.

history6
HISTORY-OF-FRAGRANCE-LANDSCAPE_01

Today perfumery is more vibrant, exciting and sophisticated than ever before. It is also much more accessible. Thanks to social media and the internet scent is increasingly better known, appreciated and understood: a knowledge which has enhanced rather diminished its eternal mystique. Customers are not only infinitely more numerous but more demanding in their desire for novelty, quality, variety and transparency – all of which keeps perfumers up to the mark. Sourcing of raw materials is more discerning and ethical; methods of production are more precise and exacting; new ingredients and refinements constantly become available.

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Orange Square is the Keeper of the Fragrance Flame; the Guardian and Herald of unique, historic, trendsetting and always luxurious Scents. Orange Square is the nourisher and purveyor of beautiful perfumes conceived in style and made with loving care and authenticity. The Orange Square catalogue is proud to feature perfumes which claim their heritage and authenticity from the past while looking to the future to enhance their legend.

HISTORY-OF-FRAGRANCE-LANDSCAPE_05

Orange Square is the Keeper of the Fragrance Flame; the Guardian and Herald of unique, historic, trend-setting and always luxurious Scents. Orange Square is the nourisher and purveyor of beautiful perfumes conceived in style and made with loving care and authenticity. The Orange Square catalogue is proud to feature perfumes which claim their heritage and authenticity from the past while looking to the future to enhance their legend.

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