The ethos of aromas

The history of perfume dates back to the dawn of time, blurring as it does with the birth of the human race. Olfactory traces are, in fact, linked to memory and seem to bring us back to primordial odours and age-old perfumes.
Each skin has its own distinct smell which becomes a veritable perfume for one’s partner. “Don’t wash yourself, I’m on my way,” wrote Napoleon to Josephine.
Scientific discoveries show the importance of the sense of smell, in men and in animals, for its capacity to intensify attraction.

Since tine immemorial every ancient civilisation has used the gifts of nature to accompany these alchemies, creating inebriating, relaxing and stimulating perfumes.

Perfumers have always been venerated and treated as philosophers and masters. Priests offered incense which used to rise to heaven as a sign of a sacred offering (we all know the Three Wise Men brought Christ gifts of incense and myrrh). And later particular odours accompanied the presence of saints.

But man quickly discovered that perfume had not only a sacred value but also a therapeutic one: the curative powers of certain aromas, in the hands of Arab, Israeli, Greek or Egyptian perfumers, replaced or integrated traditional medicines. Incenses, baths, unguents, cosmetics and balsams became refined pleasures and precious allies in looking after one’s health.

All we are doing today is to re-discover this ancient knowledge. The Egyptians were the fathers of aromatherapy. The substances they used in their sacred rituals were also used in beauty practices and turned out tob e very useful in the highly complicated techniques of embalming, which still astonish us today.

The oldest known formula regarding the composition of a perfume (what we would call the olfactory pyramid today) is in an ancient hieroglyphic inscription dating back four thousand years.

The Greeks pursued the art of perfume and so did the Romans who, through their conquests, spread and amplified the use of perfumed essences, integrating them into the customs of the peoples they conquered. In his Satyricon Petronius describes the banquets of his time as veritable “olfactory orgies.” And rose petals, which had been treated with perfumed essences were put into the interstices of the ivory ceiling of Nero’s famous Domus Aurea in Rome.

During the Middle Ages, and for a long period, frequent bathing and ablutions were abandoned. And this led to the success of the earliest perfumed waters. In France, after the 18th century, most people who worked with perfumes were concentrated around Grasse which still today is famous as the world’s capital of perfume. The famous Provence lavender was also used in the perfumed gloves worn by English, French and Italian ladies which is how perfume was “worn” for the first time.

And so perfume continued to exercise its power over man, from tradition to tradition, from century to century, in a kind of “continuous knot” linking the ancient and modern worlds.

Over the centuries, it has always been worshipped, even if sometimes it was opposed for its seductive power, enchanting countless man and womed from all ages, ranks and walk of life. Its direct relationship with the sacred world was integrated with more carnal, seductive, aristocratic values.

It is pleasure, sublimation, recollection. Memories and suggestions linkes to perfumed follow the mysterious paths of the analogy. Because a perfume speaks to the heart, not to the mind. Homais, in "Madame Bovary", says "Perfume is to stupefy the senses and to bring on ecstasies".

Its ability to merge into a person's identity, representing the wearer even in his or her absence, is probably one of its most fascinating qualities. Today, just like yesterday. And forever.

...Perfume was born in the mist of time...

...To merge into a person's identity...

...Egyptians were the fathers of aromatherapy...