I had been wanting to visit the Fragonard museum for quite some time now, knowing that the guided tour is free, and finally the opportunity came up. (It’s hard to make time for frivolous and fun things sometimes, even in the city of Paris…time, that ever fleeting escape artist…)
Sitting just behind the Garnier Opera house, the hôtel particulier (mansion house) in which the museum is house was designed by one of Garnier’s students, Lesoufaché, in 1860 and reminds us of the old Parisian splendor of the 19th century. Painted ceilings, gorgeous molding, gold-leafing and brilliant crystal chandeliers that date from the time the building was constructed… it’s enough to make you day-dream…
But you don’t have much time to let your mind wander into 19th century land, when people wore top hats and carried canes and drove in carriages… because your highly knowledgeable guide has a thousand things to tell you about the history of perfume and how it came to Europe, France and on your wrist.
I learned that perfume was invented in the middle east for the Arabian royalty many many centuries ago… Grecian folks also used scents as offerings to gods. Perfume in it’s primitive form was created out of oils and fats that were permeated with the scents of plants and flowers… Later, perfume then was begotten from the condensation process that we all know of from watching that creepy movies (based on a novel) called “Perfume”, and an essential oil is extracted. But I won’t tell you all of the secrets I learned at the Fragonard perfume museum…because it is so much more entralling when you here about it in that exquisit building. I will tell you though that I learned that were very few perfumers in the world today, in French they are called “Nez” as in nose! There are perhaps around 100, in the entire world and only a couple of them actually create for their own brand (Serge Lutens is one of those)! It is not easy to become a “nez”, you must have abachelor’s of chemistry degree to even be considered at the schools of perfume. In France there are 2 schools, one in Grasse and one in Versailles. The school in Versailles required two years to get the degree (that is if you are accepted into the school and can handle the rigorous studies) and there is an age maximum (around 32 I believe). The school in Grasse does not have an age requirement and the degree lasts one year.
Perfume is made from essential oils and is composed with only 25% of alcohol, and eau de toilette is made with 50% alcohol… this tid-bit and other fun things to know about perfume and the work of a “nez” are to be discovered at this magnificent museum. And the ground floor is their boutique where you get high quality French made products for bargain prices, because there is not middle-mad seller between Fragonard fabrication and …Fragonard boutiques!
Le musée du parfum
9 rue Scribe
Tél: +33 (0) 1 47 42 04 56
Fax: +33 (0) 1 47 42 17 45
Open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm.
Open Sundays and holidays 9am to 5pm.
Métro station : Opéra