An option for Blogdorf's Beauty Book Club:
from The Times Saturday Magazine:
As Elisabeth de Feydeau’s new biography of the queen’s perfumer reveals, it is a glove that would have been evocatively fragranced. In A Scented Palace, de Feydeau tells the story of Jean-Louis Fargeon, born in 1748 to perfuming stock in Montpellier, the city that preceded Grasse as France’s fragrance capital. In 1773 Fargeon took the stagecoach to Paris, inspired by an ambition to serve the woman who as dauphine was then the darling of all Europe. It took three years to insinuate himself into Marie Antoinette’s circle, marking the beginning of a lifelong alliance. Although Fargeon’s stalwart Republicanism caused him increasingly to reject the institution of monarchy, he admired and profited by its embodiment, supplying her court with all manner of soaps, rouges, powders, face creams, beauty spots and toothbrushes. But it was his ingenuity as a perfumer that captured the young woman’s attention.
Versailles, still more than the streets of Paris, was notorious for its stench, born of unwashed bodies, rotting food and festering human and animal excrement. An inveterate bather when the custom continued to arouse mistrust, Marie Antoinette maintained the Austrian standards of hygiene she had been brought up with; her entourage was known by the epithet “the perfumed court”. Years later, ailing, imprisoned, and awaiting judgment, a simple posy would cause her to recall her “real passion” for flowers (a luxury that was immediately withdrawn). At her prime, not least in the gardens of her pastoral retreat, the Petit Trianon, the queen indulged her love of fragrant blooms. “Flowers reigned everywhere,” as de Feydeau remarks.
Elaborating upon this passion, de Feydeau adds a novelistic passage to her study, “a fantasy based on fact”, in which the queen commissions a perfume evocation of the Trianon from Fargeon. Exploring her knowledge of the craftsman’s palette and his patroness’s style, she concocts a possible formula. This fantasy, in turn, captured the imagination of the fragrance creators Quest International, who commissioned celebrated nose Francis Kurkdjian to compose “a ghost of a perfume” around her list of ingredients. (see picture above)
The result is M.A. Sillage de la Reine, a delicate, bouquet of rose, iris, cut jasmine, tuberose and orange blossom, offset by cedar and sandalwood, on a base of tonkin musk and grey amber. De Feydeau suggests its originality would have been akin to that of Chanel’s No. 5 or Mugler’s Angel. With a view to dix-huitième authenticity, the scent has been created out of entirely natural ingredients (albeit without the animal elements that would have lent sensuality) and will be sold to finance Versailles’ acquisition of Marie Antoinette’s travel chest.
M.A. Sillage de la Reine sounds like heaven. Has anyone been lucky enough to sniff the scent? What was it like?
Is it worth coveting?
credits: makeupalley, Hannah Betts at The Times, photos from chateauversailles.fr and style.com