Museums of the art of perfume: the must visit museums of one of the oldest arts in the world

Perfumery is an art. Like other forms of art, it can transmit emotions, through the sense that has been most disparaged in the most common concept of art: smell.

The history of this art, as beautiful as it is ancient, can be traced through the places that stand up to true tales of it: the perfume museums.

I want to take you on this multisensory journey by telling you where my nose has found full satisfaction.

You will admire huge collections at various museums, mainly between Italy and France. In addition to the wide range of perfumes on display, you will be able to appreciate the stories and tales behind many essences, which will take you through the history of this wonderful art and its processes.

These are the 5 main museums that you should definetily visit:

  • Milan perfume museum
  • Sant’Elena perfume museum
  • Grasse perfume museum
  • Perfume museum Paris
  • Barcelona perfume museum

Milan - Perfume Museum

As well as being one of the most fascinating and important arts in all civilizations, perfumery has created thousands of splendid glassware objects and materials. This combination of the two arts can be admired at the perfume museum in Milan, unique in Italy, and mainly dedicated to the history, design and art of the 1900s. It is in fact an environment dedicated to those who love art and beauty, a cultural center of studies on perfumery of the time, where you can attend historical and artistic itineraries, meetings, exhibitions, conferences, training courses and even workshops for those who want to put into practice some fascinating practices of this magical art. As I always say: get involved! You could discover (or rediscover) your artistic side.

In about an hour and a half you will admire very rare perfumes ranging from the early nineteenth century to the seventies created by designers, glaziers, graphic designers and perfumers. This is a place where the legends and myths related to the great perfumes are told.

Address: Via Messina, 55 - 20156 Milano Italy

Isernia - Sant’Elena perfume museum

The museum was born to enhance the history of Sant’Elena Sannita and its community, by merging the various initiatives of research and enhancement of the territory, with particular focus on perfumes, essences and cosmetic products.

The building has two floors, where conferences, demonstrations and presentations can be held. On the back, you will find a small botanical garden, which was put next to the path that leads to the perfume exhibition hall, and has plants which are useful for experimenting essences, identified thanks to the research of Prof. Fear of UNIMOL - University of Molise.

Inside there is a large collection of over 1500 pieces of modern perfumery (early 1900s), collected thanks to a meticulous work that has lasted for over a hundred years, and which has meant that original perfumes, unique pieces, first editions and special bottles were not lost over time. A wonderful gesture, of pure love for art and for those who, like you and me, have not had the opportunity to experience and get to know these unique pieces.

Address: Via del Profumo, 86099; Sant’Elena Sannita Italy

Grasse - perfume museum

In France, contemporary perfumery was born in the early twentieth century thanks to François Coty, and here Coco Chanel launched the trend of aldehyde-rich perfumes.
The history of Grasse, a town in the south of France, has always been linked to craftsmanship and manufacture and here perfume ranks first as a "necessity", connected to the leather goods sector (and especially leather gloves) , the perfume was used as a way to cover the strong smell released from the products made.
Grasse was the first city to create an International Perfumery Museum, an objective achieved thanks to a project whose realization was supported by a tenacious collective will.
Therefore the creation of this museum also has symbolic value.
Its history began in 1918, when François Carnot created a private museum in Grasse, with a section reserved to perfumery in all its various forms which, since 1921, has been enriched thanks to generous donations. Many perfumers from Grasse and Paris work collectively on the creation of the museum. This is how François Carnot brought the world of perfumery and that of the decorative arts together .

In 2006, the surface of the Museum doubled, offering a space of 3500 meters entirely dedicated to the world of perfumery to visitors. An authentic proof of the international technical, aesthetic, social and cultural history of the tradition of the use of perfumes, the Museum deals with all aspects of the history of fragrances with an anthropological approach, from raw materials to manufacturing, from industry to innovation, from trade to design and usage through the most diverse forms.

Address: 2 Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon, 06130 Grasse

Paris - perfume museum

The Perfume Museum, a private museum belonging to the Fragonard fashion house, is located in a Hôtel Particulier, at number 9 on the refined rue Scribe, a few steps away from the Opéra Garnier. It was built in 1860 by the architect Lesoufaché. Here you can admire frescoed ceilings, parquet floors, stuccos, romantic chandeliers and fireplaces dating back to the creation of the structure. As I anticipated, the multisensory experience is just that: all your senses are involved, not just the sense of smell, in the contemplation of beauty.
The museum was set up about twenty years later, and will leave you speechless with three thousand years of history of perfume, from the time of the ancient Egyptians to the present. The museum will allow you to appreciate a large number of natural products that have always been used for the production of essences. Here you can fall in love with the Orgue à parfums, an organ-shaped piece of furniture with bottles of ingredients used by the perfumer to balance different fragrances.
You will be able to access the museum for free and without the help of a guide, you can completely immerse yourself in the history of perfumery.

The Maison Fragonard also opened the New Fragonard Perfume Museum in October 2015, a few steps from the rue Scribe museum. In this museum you attend a free guided tour in French, English or Italian.

Address: Musée du Parfum, 9 rue Scribe 75009 Paris

Barcelona - Museu of perfume

Located on the back side of the Perfumerias Regia de Barcelona in Passeig de Gràcia this museum preserves an invaluable collection. The history of Spain, made up of dominations and cultural melting-pot, could only be traced back to the traditions of the very ancient populations, some of which are fundamental in the field of perfumery.
Its path, with a strong historical imprint traces the steps from Egyptian knowledge to Greek aryballos, from Roman urns to Arab formulations.

The section dedicated to the "commercial collection" with 74 historical brands is also very interesting.

You will be able to fully appreciate the evolution of form, design, ancient fashions and meet the oldest roots of this art.

Adress: Passeig de Gràcia, 39 (dentro de la Perfumeria Regia), Barcelona

Many beauties are near us, but often we do not know about their existence.

Now you have one less excuse and one more reason to give your nose and heart what it deserves!

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