The Perfumed Court Collection | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: The Perfumed Court Collection

October 15, 2009

The Perfumed Court Collection

I hope everyone has had a chance to vote on the Poll (right sidebar) as I am very curious to hear your opinions!

As far as fragrance, I have great news and bad news! Let's start with the great:
First of all, for all of you who were devastated when you realized you could not spare the $4,000 for a vile of Silliage de Reine sold at Versailles, fret no more!

Dawn M. Spencer-Hurwitz (perfumer & creator) has created "The Perfumed Court Collection" to accompany the exhibit Artisans and Kings: Selections from the Louvre (Denver Art Museum). The collection features 10 fragrances created from historical notes and research which match fragrances that floated through the court of France from the reigns of Louis XIV through Louis XVI.

Based on research from 18th texts, and the helpful notes of Jean-Louis Fargeon (A Scented Palace) she has captured these fragrances and is now offering them for sale! You can purchase them in handmade charm bottles which you can string a ribbon or chain through to wear or hang up, and also decorative perfum bottles.

Lovely! These are very appropriate because in the 18th century, little bottles became en vogue. Ladies could carry them descreetly, so, in case of an emergency they could reapply! They were usually on chains and had a screw top.

Her website also notes that "In keeping with the authenticity of thematerials, The Perfumed Court collection has been created using all botanical,preciousessences, except for the animal notes, which are synthetic."

Now the bad news: they are, unfortunately, a limited edition= limited stock!  However, she offers The Perfumed Court Collection Sampler Packs of all 10 fragrances in the collection (1ml bottles)!

I was lucky to get a quick interview with Dawn, here is what she has to say about this fabulous collection:

Lauren: What first inspired you to make this collection?

Dawn M. Spencer-Hurwitz: I was asked by the Denver Art Museum to do a lecture in conjunction with their "Artisans and Kings" exhibit of treasures on loan from the Louvre from the Versailles period of Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI and this collection of perfumes is what came out of my research on the fragrance styles and aromatics of the period. I had originally intended to create 1-3 perfumes to illustrate the period but, well, you know how it is when you get inspired? 10 perfumes came into being.

What was the most interesting fact you uncovered in your research of these historical fragrances?

DSH: You know, the most interesting things that came from my research was all about the innovations of Louis XIV, who was a true originator of fashion. So many icons that are associated with chic and especially French culture, Paris as a city of lights, a passion for diamonds, champagne and high fashion styles all stem from plan laid out by Louis XIV. He is an amazingly fascinating character!

You provide the option of buying the fragrances in 'small charm bottles.' Exactly what are these and why did you choose to offer them?

DSH: The charm bottles are wonderful little gems; they are artisan made in Paris and just seemed so perfect for this collection. Historically speaking, it was very common to have ornate, personal bottles of scent for travel. The charm bottles really reminded me of some of the bottles of the period.

Of the entire collection which fragrance is your favorite?

DSH: Choosing favorites is always the hardest part for me.... I really love the Eau de la Favourite ( it's just so unusual) and of course, I love the Aqua Admirabilis. It really feels perfect in every way (except that like all natural eau de colognes, it doesn't last long at all...). Ok, and Eau de Coquette is a wonderful , heady, seductive floral... super sexy. ( I love them all).
Follow Dawn on Twitter!

Curious now??? I have listed each perfume below with some of my thoughts and some of Dawn's descriptions & some of the composition scents:

"Cyprian-a powdered wig scent"
My favorite! It is light and perfect. In my hair? you bet!
Dawn writes "Cyprian was a popular 18th century perfume for hair pmades and powder for the elaborate wigs and 'poufs' that were the height of fashion at Versailles. It's mossy-violet fragrance is reminiscent of the powdered orris roote and oakmoss that were used to keep the hair pieces fresh."  I love it! Some of the composition includes: Bergamot, Clary Sage, French Oakmoss...

"Eau de Cologne/Aqua Admirabilis"(Louis XIV)
Dawn writes that this was called Aqua Admirabilis and was *the* fragrance! It was brought to France from Germany by French soldiers.  It has a fresh citrus scent to me! Some scents include Bergamot, Sweet Orange, Esprit de Lavande Rosemary...

"Eau de Coquette" (Mme. du Barry - evening fragrance)
If I imagine an 18th century fragrance it is this one... It comes on really powerful and I can imagine running into it if walking through a crowded opera. Although it is fun, unusal, and a fragrance for seduction, I bet I would start getting quite annoyed with the ladies who douse themselves in it every night! What tarts!  Scents include Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Orris Concrete, Ambergris....

"Eau de Fleurs d'Oranger du Roi" (Louis XV)
This light fragrance is so lovely, "Orange blossom water of the King."  I am wearing it today! I may as well be a King  :o) Includes Bitter orange, Italian Neroli, Petitgrain, Ambergris...

"Eau de la Favourite" (Mme. du Barry - day fragrance)
This one was based on a fragrance made for Madame du Barry, it is soft with a mix of citrus and spice. I really can picture her wearing it!Esprit de  Fleurs d'Orange, Orange Flower Absolute - France, Eau de vie de Cognac...

"Eau de Trianon" (Marie Antoinette)
This one to me, is very sophisticated, and I feel quite pretty wearing it.  It, along with the others of this collection, have the unique distinction of smelling, of a different time. It is hard to place my finger on it but they do not smell modern. No Britney Spears Fantasy scents here! Includes Esprit de Fluers d'Orange, Grandiflorum jasmine, Moroccan rose absolute, Orris roote, Tuberose absolute...

"Mille-fleurs Bouquet" (M. de Pompadour)
I thought I would care least for this fragrance, because too many flowers are not my thing.  I was wrong, and it is actually far lighter than I expected, the floral scents are varied and mixed with orange flower water and vanilla absolute! It is by no means a typical floral scent, again something distinct and un-modern. If that makes sense!

"Le Roi Soleil" (Louis XIV)
Le Roi Soleil is really fun and I really love the scent.  I will give a short description from Dawn: "Based on the heavier and more animalic fragrance styles of the late 17th Cent. (and the fashion of wearing perfumed kid gloves which lasted well into the 18th cent...) ...has a light, refreshing topnote accord that dries down to a deeply sensual, tenacious leather note."  Includes bergamot, lime peel, rosewood, infusion of leather, sweet birch...  

"Pot-pourri de Pompadour" (M. de Pompadour)
I just picked up a hidden bit of mint in this is like a surprise! Madame de Pompadour was into the new trend of pot-pourri room fragrance.  The mixed combinations of spice, flowers and herbs are apparent in this fragrance.  Some of the scents are allspice, crushed mint, jonquil, egyptian rose geranium....

"Reinette" (M. de Pompadour).
This perfume, named Little Queen after a nickname given to Madame de Pompadour by her mother is based on her favorite flower the hyacinth. Also includes Jonquil, Violet Leaf Absolute, and Vanilla Absolute.


  1. Lauren how exciting!! You actually got to sample these?! I would probably love 'Eau de la favorite' and Eau de Trianon. I love that they come in miniature bottles! I have to go check this out. What a great interview! I totally agree about Louis XIV and his fashion sense. He was the trensetter of the times and a visionary for sure- everything Versailles stems from him! Love this post- fabulous! And now that I've read this I have a better idea for the polling: YES!

  2. Lauren I am fascinated by this! I would love to smell these perfumes. And the timing of your post is so perfect because I just heard this morning from an acquaintance that the Creed perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue here in NYC is selling the fragrance they created for Marie Antoinette -- which is, predictably, very floral. I'm not entirely sure she knows what she's talking about, but I might need to head down to Saks and find out about it.

    Not only that, your post was a nice way to keep remembering my trip to Versailles last month. Funny, I kept imagining what everyone smelled like when I was there!

  3. @Leslie Carroll - Oh! Excellent! IF you do get to Saks would you mind writing up your findings? I would just love to hear about it!! And it will fit in with this Fragrance Week :o)

    @Ms Lucy- aren't they fun! Which one would you get??? I am just in love with this wig is that weird?!

  4. I'd try Eau de la favorite,for sure..and also the Trianon fragrance.

  5. @Ms Lucy - OH HA you said that already! Missed it! I also think the miniature bottles are great...How ideal and useful to keep a bottle close under ones skirts just incase of, you know, tryst in the orange grove?

  6. I am SO tempted to place an internet order for them. I might be able to afford the eau de cologne sampler, but the full strength perfume sampler is kind of pricy.

    I'm interested in smelling the wig scent as well, because as a historical fiction (and nonfiction) writer it's something I've written about but only able to imagine the scent.

    Do either of you know just how people of that era pomaded and powdered their hair? I've seen illustrations of the cones and aprons they used so they didn't get the powder all over their clothing, but I would love a "how-to" explanation. The pomades were scented with various fragrances -- that much I know, and I read somewhere that they were often concocted from bear grease (rendered bear fat??) and then scented. What was the powder made from? Was it talc? Flour? Something else? I can almost imagine it being flour or something like that because bugs and vermin would get stuck in the coiffeurs and those critters would think it was a giant banquet. :)

    And I will definitely try to get to Saks very soon!

    BTW I voted YES in the poll!

  7. Oh good questions!
    I have not actually heard of flour being used in hair powder, but perhaps! I have read that fine starch and plaster of Paris were two main ingredients. Always interested in learning more though! And I do not have a how favorite description of 'how to powder a wig evenly' will always be that of Prince Kaunitz

    Always be sure to powder after you pomade too!

  8. Just found some interesting bits on hair powder in the book "Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history" by Victoria Sherrow.

    Wheat flour became popular in hair powder in the 1700's! yum!

  9. @Tulip And which one catches your eye??

  10. Plaster of Paris?! What if you got rained on? Can you imagine? Your head would harden like a cast and you'd have to bang it against an armoire to break it and get rid of it. LOL!

    I'm off to check out your Kaunitz reference -- being Kaunitz, it is in fact particularly helpful to me, timewise.

  11. Now I remember! The wig scent was my absolute favourite! It smelled lovely and was not too over-powering.

  12. I think, from the descriptions, I would most like "Le Roi Soleil" and "Eau de la Favourite". They sound as if they might work on a man as well as a woman and, regarding a few of the others, experience has taught me that lavender and bergamot together make me violently ill.

  13. I would love to try Mille-fleurs Bouquet. Sounds like it would smell very pretty.