samedi 13 septembre 2008

The Barcelona Perfume Museum

The dream of a perfume bottle collector… And the nightmare of a fragrance lover.

Imagine hundreds of rare scents in their sealed flacons, with such intriguing names as Enigma (Lubin), Fanfan La Tulipe (Rosine), Nirvana (Bichara), La Fougeraie au crépuscule (Coty), Aventurine (L.T. Piver), Nuit d’extase (Roger & Gallet)… Not to mention almost all the Guerlains, including a very old Muskissime and sensational « turtle » flacons, rows of Russian and Soviet fragrances, and a window of Japanese fragrances bottled by the famed Tokyo department store Mitsukoshi. One scent I would’ve given a lot to smell is J’en ai marre (I’m Fed Up), launched by the legendary French music-hall artist Mistinguett in the 1920s, and named after one of her signature numbers…

I said nightmare, because of course, displayed for decades in strong artificial light, the juices must be turned beyond any recognition. I could add frustration : the Barcelona Perfume Museum, which seems a tempting proposition when you look at their site, is in fact a large room located in the back of the Regia Perfumery, one of the main and best-stocked perfume shops in Barcelona (you can find just about any niche brand there), on the very posh Passeig de Gracia. There is no available information in the commercial bottles apart from a label indicating the brand. The only catalogue is solely devoted to the non-commercial collection, rather impressive with flacons and implements going from Ancient Egypt to the 19th century. There is no one about to give information.

However, I was told that the museum was born when Regia, founded in 1928 by Don Josep Giralt, moved to its current location in 1963 : rather than to throw out his old bottles, the owner decided to display them. Several donations were added later on.

The Spanish perfume industry, which thrived in the 1920s and 30s, is naturally very well represented, in particular the two Barcelona houses Myrurgia (I’ll be getting back to it) and Parera – the latter’s 1930 Cocaina en Flor comes as quite a shock !

Though the visit is a bit frustrating, it is still of some interest for perfume lovers, if only to see, in real life, bottles you’ve read about or watched being sold for insane prices in auctions.
To see the few presentable pictures I took during my visit, have a look at the slide show on the upper right-hand side of the page. I apologize for their poor quality : I am neither competent nor adequately equipped !

Museu del Perfum, Passeig de Gracia 39, tickets: 5 euros. Open from 10:30 A.M. to 2 P.M. and from 4 :30 to 8 P.M. from Monday to Friday, from 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. on Saturdays. Metro Passeig de Gracia. www.museodelperfum.

Image: Two "turtle" bottles of Guerlain's original Parfum des Champs Elysée

4 commentaires:

  1. Oooh, I would love to smell Cocaina en Flor! How very Tom Ford of them. Suspiro de Granada also sounds fantastic...Just out of curiosity, were there any Chanels? Lanvins (weird ones)?

    At work yesterday, I was flipping through a volume of Vogues from 1915, and the were so many fun little perfume ads with great bottles. And the prices...$2.00 for a bottle of extrait, etc. And almost all of them offered free samples through the mail with a self addressed stamped envelope or something like that. And the names! I wish I could remember them, because they were so inventive and provocative.

  2. Billy, I too would've loved to smell a floral rendition of cocaine!
    There were no Chanels at all: clearly, Regia wasn't their retailer in Barcelona. Not too many Lanvins, and nothing pre-André Fraysse except My Sin. I wish I'd had a tripod and a better camera. I couldn't use a flash because of the glass and had to hold the camera up.As a result, my pictures are nearly useless. It's a pity they don't have a catalogue.

  3. Ack! All that poor juice, trapped in crystal, and assaulted by light. It sounds like a fantastic collection, but I can see why it was frustrating. Still, I'll do my best to get to see it in November. Thanks for posting about this.

  4. Jarvis, it's a pretty impressive collection. I only wish I'd had more historical knowledge (I'm not a bottle collector) to pick out the rarities.
    I might be going back to Barcelona this fall. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross?