From The Renaissance to The Enlightenment
Bathing was considered to be dangerous and unhealthy, and consequently aristocrats used increasing amounts of perfume to conceal the embarrassing odours of their ill-washed bodies. Strong, heady perfumes, such as amber, musk, jasmine and tuberose, persistent enough to cover-up bad odours were en vogue. Similarly, the fragrance used in perfumed gloves brought to France by Queen Catherine de' Medici from her native Tuscany masked the unpleasant smell of poorly tanned leather.
The association of leather and perfume was so strong that in 1656 the Corporation of Glovemakers and Perfumers was formed in France. Under Louis XIV, nicknamed “sweetest smelling king of all”, this guild was granted the monopoly of perfume distribution, which had previously belonged to apothecaries and druggists.
Strong demand for perfumed products, mainly imported from Italy, encouraged France to develop its own perfume industry. The Grasse region, in the south of France, which enjoyed a favourable climate and local support from the Montpellier faculty of pharmacy, began to specialise in both aromatic raw materials and the actual production of perfume.
The age of Enlightenment saw a major expansion in perfumery products. Scented waters gave way to toilet vinegars and bathing gradually came back into favour. As flasks adapted to these new products, vinaigrettes, handy recipients for sweet-scented vinegars, were produced.
The French court was the undisputed model of refinement and elegance throughout Europe and eventually France became the home of the greatest perfume makers and most innovative perfumes. While Paris was the capital of trade in perfumed products, the town of Grasse, with its extensive fields of jasmine and rose, became the capital of production.
It was during this period that Grasse began to acquire its worldwide reputation for the diversity and quality of its production.