The Perfume Museum of Barcelona

As I promised in the Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 2: Barcelona post, I’m sharing some of the pictures I took in the Perfume Museum of Barcelona while my stoical vSO was silently suffering from boredom. He admits that it wasn’t all bad: he enjoyed the first part of the exposition – bottles and other vessels from ancient times until the last century arranged by the origin and period. The rest, according to him, was also interesting – just not taking-240-pictures interesting, not counting time I was actually looking through the collection and pointing to him items I considered especially interesting and just had to share.

Lighting conditions were not the most favorable but I tried my best – sorry for shadows, reflections of my fingers and some color distortion. According to the museum’s website, the exposition holds 5,000 pieces – so even after you see all the pictures in this post, you’ll still have more than enough to look forward to on your visit to this museum. I decided not to do a slide show since it doesn’t allow enlarging images. To view larger images, click on any image in each section and keep clicking through.

The historical part of the exposition, while interesting, was not particularly unique: you probably saw similar vases, pots and other pottery in other museums that cover those time periods and geography. Can we imagine that some of these were used for something scent-related? We could thought I wouldn’t have thought about it if it weren’t for where I saw them.

 

 

This is where it started getting interesting: these are still pre-industrial bottles and containers but they were clearly created for perfume, powder and other beauty products:

 

 

It was surprising for me to see that many perfumes from the USSR: I recognized just a couple of names – Красная Москва (Krasnaya Moskva or Red Moscow) and Шипр (Shipr) but most others I had never seen or heard of before. As I mentioned previously, perfumes were rare in my childhood.

 

 

The rest of the exhibition is organized by the brand, older and newer bottles together without the obvious rhyme or reason for perfumes or brands represented:

 

 

I couldn’t help taking multiple pictures of my beloved Miss Dior but was a little disappointed that my life-long love Lancome Climat was “mentioned in passing” – though, I should probably be happy that it made the cut at all:

 

 

There is absolutely no doubt as to which brand is the most dear to organizers: not only there is a full case of different Guerlain bottles from different time periods, but before you are done with the visit you can smell all the current perfumes:

 

 

It is a small museum – just a single large room in the back of Perfumería Regia. They do not have much space left for any of the modern brands; and with their admission price 5 Euro that didn’t change at least for the last 4 years (see Vanessa’s report here), I do not envision significant expansion – so you’re on your own making history of modern perfumery in your perfume cabinets.

 

Images: my own

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Thinking outside the Box

Several years ago I read a post on Olfactarama blog about bottles collectors*. The following paragraph made me thinking:

Even as a young girl I hoped to someday have a vanity, on which there would be a mirrored tray, full of fine perfumes in their beautiful bottles. The bottles atop my cabinet now — Agent Provacateur comes to mind, in its pink ceramic egg crowned by a plain metal spray nozzle — aren’t the most appealing ones. Those are stashed safely in the dark interior.

As I was reading that passage, I realized that from an early age my idea of storing perfumes was somewhere in the dark – a cupboard, a dresser or a cabinet. A mirrored tray hadn’t been a part of our culture: usually there was not enough space in the bedroom to have that tray and nothing to put on it. Since perfumes were rare and expensive women tended to store them in the original packaging. Opening a box, getting a bottle out and sparingly applying a perfume – all these were parts of a ritual.

After moving to the U.S., for years, while coming across perfume bottles in my friends’ bathrooms and on their dressers, I would wince. I never offered any unsolicited advice but it felt like a sacrilege to leave unprotected perfume out in the open. But over time I came up with a rationale why it was an acceptable MO: with those 2-3 bottles that my friends owned they were much more likely to run out of perfume than have perfume running out on them (through evaporation or turning bad).

While I think it is fine for “civilians” to store and use their perfumes as they pleased – be it even on a windowsill or in a glove compartment – I still get distressed every time somebody demonstrates pictures of their poorly protected collections in perfume-related FB groups. I do not comment but I feel bad about those bottles. And I do not buy partial bottles without a box any more.

My Perfume Storage

The picture above shows how my collection is stored. In the walk-in closet, away from direct light, covered by a curtain from a blackout fabric (the cat-Christmas-themed towel on top is for decorative purposes only) and in their original boxes. And, as I recently commented on Vanessa’s post on a similar topic (Through the keyhole…a peek at some of my friends’ perfume collections…), in summer for those couple of days when it gets especially hot I turn AC on during the day to keep my perfumes safe. It’s interesting because Rusty doesn’t mind hot weather and it’s much cooler in the room where he spends most of his time while we’re away working.

After this substantial preamble I want to admit that for a while now I’ve been thinking how unfair it was that I get to see those beautiful bottles that I have in my collection so rarely and how great it would be to have some of them out on my dresser. After all, many of the bottles are beautiful and unusual – unlike most boxes, I must say.

As much as I would love to see my collection more often, there is no way I could put perfumes I love “in the harm’s way.” First I decided I would buy several perfumes just to use bottles. I didn’t want to spend too much on this project but I thought of a couple of brands that were perfect candidates: I liked the bottles and didn’t like those perfumes. First I bought Van Cleef & ArpelsFeerie EdT. Feerie EdP (a beautiful dark-blue bottle) was next on my list and I even found it for an extremely good price… It was too good to be true: the seller was confused and sent me the second bottle of EdT, which I returned. Then I was too busy to keep looking for it. The second brand I wanted to use for the purpose of displaying was Salvador Dali. But even though many of their perfumes are sold at discounters online, I don’t remember when I saw any of the bottles last so I was afraid that by now they might look really cheap. So I kept postponing the purchase hoping to come across them one day somewhere. And I had the same problem with a mirrored tray: while there were many online offerings, I just couldn’t buy any of them without actually looking at them: there are so many cheap-looking objects produced nowadays.

Perfume Bottles on my Dresser

In the end I decided – at least for now – to use what I already have:

  • Instead of a tray I put on my dresser a decorative plate “J’adore Parfum – I Love Perfume” that I got as a gift with purchase.
  • Mentioned above bottle of Feerie EdT
  • Two empty bottles: Annick Goutal‘s Petite Cherie (I used up this one but couldn’t throw it because I like these colored AG’s bottles) and Salvador Dali’s Laguna (20 years ago I got it from my friend after she finished it: I liked the bottle but not enough to splurge on the perfume)
  • Two partial bottles (perfume gone bad): Les Parfums de Rosine‘s Roseberry and Yves Rocher‘s Nature (it’s one of my old favorites so I have another bottle with good perfume but I like this leaf design and kept this bottle for no good reason – probably for this project
  • Vintage mini-bottle of Chamade by Guerlain that I bought at a thrift store (perfume is marginally usable but I prefer a modern version).

I like my arrangement. It looks nice on my dresser and I think for now I scratched that itch. But those Dali bottles and Feeri EdP…

Do you buy unboxed bottles? Do you have any bottles on display?

Images: my own

* I cannot give you a link to that post because there’s something funky going on with that blog, it has some strange redirect happening and I suspect malware.

Does the size… (strike that) bottle matter? Yep!

 

A while ago Monday Question on Olfactoria’s Travels was: How Important Is The Perfume Bottle To You?

Out of 38 respondents 25 (66%) said bottles were very important for the enjoyment of a perfume; 7 (18%) didn’t care for bottles much and 6 (16%) put bottles into the “nice to have but not crucial” category.

I’ve added my voice to the “bottles, please” crowd but my position is a little quirkier; so even though this post covers a slightly different topic I want to reiterate the answer from my comment there.

If I’m in love with a perfume I want to own a bottle of it. And it has to be a real bottle, with a cap and a box: a tester or a refill bottle won’t satisfy my need for a full aesthetic experience. I have no problems with partial bottles though.

When it comes to the perfumes that I just like I’m attracted to unique bottles. And if a brand has standard bottles (Chanel Les Exclusifs, Dior La Collection, Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums, Ormonde Jayne, Guerlain L’Art et La Matière, etc.) owning just one bottle from the line seems to lull the cravings and I feel content with just decants of the other perfumes from that line.

Chanel Cuir de Russie

In the same post Birgit referred to her earlier post about the purchase one of the reasons for which was the beauty of the bottle: So I saw this bottle […] and knew I wanted it for its beauty alone. That it holds an exquisite scent is only the cherry on top and something that makes me happy, but unexpectedly so, because all I knew about 24 Faubourg before I laid hands on my precious Quadrige Edition was from one spray on the back of my hand right there in the store.

I went even further: recently I bought several perfumes… just because of the packaging.

Last July at the First Artisan Salon in San Francisco I saw new packaging for Ineke‘s Floral Curiosities line for Anthropologie and thought it was great. When I initially tested perfumes from the line they were fine but I didn’t love any of them enough to go for a full bottle. But these travel sprays disguised as poetry books were just calling my name. Also since I keep saying that companies should be releasing more perfumes in small bottles I felt like I just had to buy these… So I bought all four: Scarlet Larkspur, Poet’s Jasmine, Sweet William and Angel’s Trumpet.

Ineke Floral Curiosities Travel Bottles

I’ve tested Premier Figuier Extrême by L’Artisan Parfumeur before and thought it was nice but there are several other fig perfumes in my collection and I already have one bottle from L’Artisan Parfumeur line (though those colored labels add some appeal to otherwise similar bottles). Then I came across a special edition bottle… and just couldn’t resist. I will gladly wear Premier Figuier, I like this perfume and think it’ll make a very pleasant office scent. But I do not think I would have bought it any time soon if it hadn’t been for that gorgeous bottle.

Rusty And L'Artisan Premier Figuier

There are several more bottles on my “to buy” list but I think for now I’ve scratched that itch… unless you know where I can buy L’Artisan’s Mure et Musc Extreme in the blackberry-shaped bottle.

4 people from the survey mentioned above also confessed to buying perfumes just for the bottle.

Have you ever bought a perfume just because of the packaging?

 

Images: my own