Thursday, April 23, 2009

Another Jeudi de Josephine : Roses are Red, Violets are Blue…

I smell wonderful, and so do you!

Not too long ago, Lucy from Indieperfumes contacted me to tell me that she had linked me in her post : “Interesting Perfume Conversations”. She suggested I do a post on Josephine’s love of rose and violet musk perfumes. So, of course that got me going….

Was this royal couple really into perfume? Well, actually, yes…Quite a bit.

Josephine was in fact the one who introduced her young beau, Napoleon, to scented baths and perfumes. Napoleon soon became accustomed to smelling great. He loved preparations of citrusy oils from Eau de Cologne by Houbigant and Aqua Admirabilis, created by Gian Paolo Feminis. The Emperor loved to bathe in diluted water from these colognes. He also enjoyed monthly rubdowns from these fragrances.

Josephine, on the other hand, preferred more exotic scents that included cinnamon, musk and vanilla. Josephine loved the combination of these scents that were muskier and more seductive in essence. She also loved the floral scents when she revelled in lavishing baths splashed made by Houbigant’s ‘Quelques Fleurs’.

But how did it all begin…

For this, we have to go all the way back to Grasse, France, to the House of Rancé, which was known, at the time, for its exquisite perfumed gloves.

In 1795, Jean Francois Rancé diversified the company by specializing into producing perfumes. Rancé had total admiration for Napoleon and wanted to honor his hero with fragrances made especially for him. Amongst some of the fragrances created, he named one ‘Le Vainqueur’ (The Victor or the Conqueror). Josephine absolutely loved this scent on Napoleon. Being totally impressed; the Empress asked that something be created for herself as well. Rancé created L’Imperatrice for Josephine. He made sure to present it to her in a lovely Sevres porcelain box.

The most interesting thing about this story is that Napoleon specifically asked Rancé to create a clean and fresh fragrance that should not, however, overshadow the one to be created for Josephine. The perfumes had to be wonderfully pleasant on their own person as well as perfectly in harmony when they two lovers were together. Their scents blended perfectly while accentuating the blissful fragrance. The perfumes were so exquisite and original that courtiers everywhere were enthralled by the combination of these scents. Everyone wanted to smell like the Emperor and Empress!

Well Napoleon made sure that didn’t happen. So, what Napoleon wanted from Rancé was exclusivity. And, that, he got. The Conqueror demanded (and left specific instructions as well) that the scent not be reproduced or sold for 200 years!

After 1805, Rancé moved its location to Milan, Italy, where it still operates today. You could say that the 200 years are finally up since Rancé re-launched both fragrances a few years ago. ‘L’Imperatrice’ has been renamed ‘Josephine’ and sells for about $80 for a 50 ml.

'Josephine' perfume

Bonaparte’s perfume, 'Le Vainqueur'

I really believe that scents do tell you a lot about a person. It’s not only about hygiene and cleanliness…perfume is in some way a means of communication…You can be attracted, interested, calmed, excited… or even repelled by it- it’s such a personal thing. I recall a passage in the Josephine trilogy that describes Josephine picking up one of Bonaparte’s shirts and inhaling his scent for comfort when she missed him…wonder if it was filled with that citrusy aroma that made him all hers…

For a review of Rance Josephine (the perfume) see:




Lucy said...

Ah wonderful! I love the idea of them coordinating their perfume compositions! How French!


May said...

Great post and wonderful photos. Very glamorous perfume bottles!

Eleonora Baldwin said...

Is it true that Napoleon would write letters to her before returning home asking her not to bathe until he got back, so he could inhale her natural "smell?" Something along the lines of "I return tomorrow, don't wash until then"

Very interesting post, Ms Lucy, as usual!
I love Rancé, my soap is Eau de Cologne by that lovely make.

Lucy said...

Hi Lucy! I loved the idea of matching scents as well. Thanks:)

Thanks Matterhorn:)

Hi Lola:) I'm glad you brought up this point...and now I regret not having added it to my post. Yes, it is true that Napoleon did mention this in his letter to Josephine. I suppose you could say that this does prove that the Emperor was indeed 'susceptible' (or infallible) to scents LOL! Thanks:)

Ingrid Mida said...

What a fascinating post.
I agree with you that you can tell a lot about a person by their scent! One of my favourite perfumes comes from a small shop in Paris. They don't export outside of France so I always stock up when I visit. I use it sparingly but it always transports me back to Paris.

Renee said...

I think it is so true that when you miss someone and you get a whisp of them in the air it is such a treat to the heart.

Renee xoxoxo

Lucy said...

Hi Ingrid:) I love scents that remind you of a time and place. That's happened to me with a perfume I wore one summer in Greece- now I associate it with that particular vacation. Isn't that something?

Hi Renee:) It's true that scents can definitely create a bond...we just have to think of newborns and their mommies:)

Lauren said...

Now I wonder...What do my fragrances say about me?!
Great Post!!

Heather Carroll said...

How interesting, I love how you can still get their scents!

sallymandy said...

This is fascinating! I love it, and that the scents are now available again. That kind of re-creation of history kind of gives me goosebumps, that you could get something that smells like what they wore.

I loved this post and I so enjoy these Jeudis de Josephine. Thanks, Ms Lucy.

Arleigh said...

Wow I had no idea they were into perfumes to that extent! And you can buy it! Great post Lucy!

Lucy said...

Thanks Lauren- I'm glad you enjoyed it:)

Hi Heather:) Can you imagine having to wait that long to be able to re-launch!

Hi Sallymandy:) I didn't think it was possible that they could reproduce the same fragrance...I get very sentimental too about stuff like that. I'm happy you're enjoying the read:) Thanks!

Hey Arleigh:) Yes...and having exclusivity as well!!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I love perfume and a nicely scented man, as well :).

Viola said...

Lovely post! I hope that I can find the perfume, 'Josephine'!

Lucy said...

Hello 'the Things We Carried'- thanks for visiting and commenting.

Hi Viola:) I think it should be quite easy to find- even online- but certainly if you visit Milan:)

Passages to the Past said...

Left an award for you at my place...stop by and get it!

ceecee said...

Hi Ms. Lucy -
I think I would have liked Josephine's choices. I love musk and vanilla. I went to a perfume exhibit once. Marvelous, with old perfume bottles, atomisers etc. They passed out brochures with info about each century and there were perfumed flaps you could lift to smell the perfume of particular eras. It was unbelievable! Terrific post. Very informative. I'll type that recipe up for you soon and e-mail it.

Lucy said...

Thank you Amy!

Hi Catherine:) That exhibit sonds like it was wonderful! I would have loved to have been there. I truly believe perfume can transport you to a different time and place and make you dream. thanks for your comment, and I know just how thoughtful you are so, please, please I'm in no rush for the recipe:)

Wanda said...

How interesting, I love how you can still get their scents!

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