An itinerary through perfume flacons history

The new section of the museum of Palazzo Mocenigo, in Venice, Italy, dedicated to the history of perfume and essences, which was added to the new layout of the museum recently, supported by Mavive SpA, a venetian company of Vidal’s family, involved on perfume business from early 1900s, presents a large selection of scent bottles from the Magnani collection until end of March. It is common knowledge that perfume and its containers were for centuries reserved for a few privileged people who, even through these tiny objects, sought to show off their wealth and their love of beauty or of the “marvellous”.

These extraordinary artefacts are the passion of Monica Magnani, an ‘omnivorous’ collector of antique scent bottles, who embarked on her quest following the purchase of a small silver object from a noble Venetian family. What was later discovered to be a German perfume box of the seventeenth century set the parameters that now characterise the over 850 scent bottles in her collection: antiquity, the unusual and small size, all less than 10 centimetres. Developed over time with meticulous and passionate research, discoveries, choices and study, the collection ranges from the ‘unguentaria’ of the first centuries after Christ to early-twentieth-century pieces via some rare examples of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It also covers the great variety typical of production throughout the nineteenth century, and includes the chatelaines worn at dances or used for tiny French love tokens, or made with Murano and Bohemia glass or, also, as some of the many souvenirs of the Grand Tour. The exhibition presents a selection of 225 scent bottles divided into 10 thematic areas – Chronology, Toys, Souvenirs, Techniques, Nature, Love tokens, Containers, Chatelaines, Tiny and Masterpieces – displayed on the basis of an original interpretation that reveals their intrinsic significance: not only as containers for scent but almost as a ‘manifestation’ of a mood or feeling. The exhibition is further embellished with a showcase displaying rare vintage advertisements and another featuring antique books on perfume and cosmetics provided by the Biblioteca della Bellezza di Cosmetica Italia – Milan (formerly Unipro – Unione nazionale industrie di profumeria, cosmesi, saponi di toletta e affini). Also on show is the original sketch by Gino Boccasile for Vidal’s Lauro Olivo advertisement, kindly loaned by Mavive for the occasion. Here, then, is a fascinating journey, that started from Venice and in Venice finds its logical venue, to discover an extraordinary hand-made production that has flourished over the years with a unique imagination and technical ability. The visit can explore the five rooms that are dedicated to perfume and are perfectly integrated with the attraction of the displays throughout the museum. A video illustrates the role of Venice in the history of perfume, a room evokes the lab of a perfumer of the 16th century (muschiere). Raw materials and processes are displayed and illustrated, while an olfactory map describes the “Streets of Spices” crossed by the ancient Venetians. Finally, the tour ends with the opportunity to experience, through some olfactory stations the “fragrance families” from which come all the fragrances.


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