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Perfumery, Art bronze, ... - Expo Paris 1878

Perfumery, Art bronze, ... at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1878

Perfumery, which was once of little importance, has now become one of our great industries.

Paris has become the great centre.

The departments, especially those of the South, and in particular the towns of Nice, Cannes and Grasse, supply the raw materials which are sent to Paris where they are manufactured.

To give the reader an idea of the great extension that the perfume industry has taken, we will place before his eyes the following details, which will give him an idea of the progression of the production and will show him the importance of the turnover that it represents today:
kilos. francs.
1836............ 800,000 6,000,000
1840............ 1,100,000 7,000,000
1856.......... 1,S50,000 10,000,000
1866 ........... 3,500,000 16,000,000
1876 ........... 2,500,000 17,000,000

These figures represent the total export; unfortunately we have not been able to find the exact figure for domestic consumption.

England, Belgium, the Spanish possessions in America, Brazil, Germany and the United States are the countries where our imports are most considerable.

Finally, it is clear from all that we have just said that, in the field of perfumery, the whole world is, with few exceptions, dependent on our industry.

The exhibition of French perfumery was very intelligently organised.

It was not only the female element that graced it with its visit. Men flocked to it, attracted by the seduction of perfumes, by the perpetual embalming of the atmosphere.

In addition to this undeniable charm, the perfumery exhibition had an excessively picturesque side.

In front of each shop window, the young ladies in charge of guarding them and doing the honours, were armed with a propeller loaded with an odorous liquid, from which they sent droplets onto the hair and clothes of those who wished to smell them.

Not only did no one refuse, but everyone eagerly demanded it, so the pretty perfumers had a lot to do.

Let us now examine the main shop windows. Here, among others, is the house of Gellé frères.

As one of our colleagues in France said so well, this company is one of those whose importance is known to all; the jury awarded it the gold medal.

Founded in 1826, in the rue d'Argout, the company saw the public's choice of its products from the start. A few years later, it had to set up a model factory in La Chapelle where the first toilet soaps were manufactured in large boilers.

In 1849, the premises became insufficient and a new factory had to be created in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

MM. Gellé frères were the first to understand the importance of steam as a driving force and as a manufacturing principle; so they did not hesitate to apply it in practice from that time onwards; this was an immense progress.

The Neuilly factory was razed to the ground in 1870 to meet the needs of the defence of Paris, and was moved to Levallois-Perret and rebuilt with all the new improvements that long experience and the progress made by modern science had brought.

The glycerine perfumery, which is one of the main branches of the company, was brought in by Mr. Eug. Devers, a learned chemist, who was taken from science too soon by death.

The welcome given to the inventor and his product sufficiently shows how much the house of Gellé frères knows how to appreciate what is truly superior. The success of this perfumery is the natural reward of the union of science and industry.

To help it in its task, the company has attached a numerous and faithful staff, 175 employees or workers, a third of whom have ten to forty years of service.

In the Delettrez showcase, we find the famous opoponax which was born towards the end of the Empire and which has retained its vogue, then satin soaps, soaps with lettuce juice, glycerine soaps, eau de Cologne du grand cordon, Delettrez dental powder, etc., etc.

Mr. Ernest Mayer, who now runs the famous Pinaud house, exhibits, among other products, his Parma violet compositions, whose fine, delicate perfume is the only one, we believe, that can rival opoponax.

The last turnover of this company was 2,500,000 fr.

This supports what we said at the beginning about the current importance of perfumery from an industrial point of view.

The Pinaud company pays a round sum of 24,000 fr. in patents and taxes, 65,000 fr. to the tax authorities and the octroi.

The consumption of raw materials is distributed as follows: 95,000 litres of alcohol, 105,000 kilograms of fine fats for the manufacture of soaps, 23,000 kilograms of ointment, grease and perfumed oil, 25,000 kilograms of other oils of various origins, and finally the steam engines which operate this immense equipment devour 325,000 kilograms of coal annually!

It manufactures 140,000 soaps per year.

One last detail, which does the greatest honour to those who govern this house.

They assure a pension to the worker who spends his life in their factory or in the service of their house.

In fact, art. 5 of the regulations states that: "Any worker employed in the factory for five consecutive years receives, without any deduction from his or her salary, an annual bonus of 50 francs in a savings bank book or in a French annuity.

"From ten years of work, this bonus is increased to 100 fr. from fifteen years, to 150 fr. from twenty years, to 200 fr.

Finally, thanks to this excellent system, a worker, entering the factory at the ordinary age of apprentices, that is to say at fifteen, is assured of having, on retiring at the age of sixty-five, a capital of 21,862 fr. 42 c. in full ownership, and sufficient to live without working.

Now comes the house of Violet, another of the well-known names in perfumery.

The royal soap of Thridace, the velvet soap, a quantity of champake and cut hay products, appear in the window and attract the attention of the ladies.

The Pompadour cream, which is said to be so precious for keeping women's faces fresh and the skin tissue fine, is also worth mentioning.

The Oriza perfumery also caught our attention.

Do you know what oriza is?

Oriza is a kind of mosaic of fragrances.

You take rose, violet, all the European flora, all the Indian flora; you mix it, you combine it and you get... oriza!

It's not much more difficult than that, but no one had thought of it before.

It is easy to understand that everything in this showcase is oriza: oriza extra soap; oriza-hay, toilet water with a bouquet of cut hay, vinegar from the Alps, oriza water, oriza essence for handkerchiefs, Italian reseda, oriza-lis; oriza-oil, surfine oil for shining the hair, etc., etc.

Let us also mention the exhibition of Messrs. Vibert, who have excellent products and who give them away in exceptionally cheap conditions, and the exhibition of Mr. Beaurain, whose soaps are of excellent quality.

Let us mention especially Valcool de menthe by M. Ricglès and the autéphelique milk by Candès, two products, - it is better to say two discoveries, - which have maintained a well-deserved reputation for many years.


We do not wish to limit ourselves, in writing the account of the Exhibition of 1878, to reminding the reader, curtly and methodically, that is to say in the manner of a catalogue, of the innumerable objects which struck his eyes.

We endeavour, whenever possible, to make known to him what the sight of the manufactured object alone did not and could not reveal to him, i.e. the secret of the manufacture.

The way in which products are made, the way in which wood, iron and the various raw materials are transformed, the phases they go through before becoming the manufactured object that can be delivered to the public, this is what was to be found in the work gallery.

A manufacturer from Marseille, M. Arnavon, gave an interesting lecture at the Trocadero on Marseille soap, of which we borrow a partial account from the engineer of the newspaper La France:
"The soap industry is very important; one can get an idea of the considerable place it holds, by thinking that the laundering industry moves more than 2 billion francs per year in France. But at the head of this manufacture, as much by the antiquity of this reputation as by the importance of its products, it is our city of Marseilles which is well ahead, and it is with good reason and with just pride that a Marseilles manufacturer, M. Arnavon, came to give, at the Trocadero palace, an interesting lecture on the special manufacture of Marseilles soap.

"M. Arnavon, and we should not be surprised, has a good grasp of his subject; he has this quality, which is enormous for a lecturer, that we agree to call easy speech. But he also knows how to find moving and touching accents, and it is with a strong feeling of gratitude and admiration that he paid tribute to M. Chevreul, who did him the honour of presiding over the session, and who, forty years ago, discovered and formulated the first theory of saponification.

"Is this to say that the manufacture of soap dates only from that time? But soap was made without realising the chemical operations that were taking place. Chance, practice, and time had led to the discovery of a manufacturing process that was considered almost a mere trick, and which the illustrious chemist had just proclaimed a model of perfection from the scientific point of view.

"Soap was prepared in Gaul long before the Romans conquered it. Then, it is in Pliny that we find certain uses of soap that make us smile nowadays, but which were very fashionable at that time. It was used to cure skin diseases and was used in the composition of a large number of remedies. Soap was used as a pharmaceutical product in the same way that other famous panaceas are used today, and in order to exploit its curative virtues, a soap factory was founded in Pompeii, the remains of which are still visible to tourists today.

"Around the 7th century, this industry made significant progress. They found a way to rid natural soda of the acids that accompany it with the help of lime, and thus prepared a new and singular application for soap.

"At that time, in Italy, beauty was blonde, and it was soap that women's coquetry turned to for fashionable shades. Venetian women were not content to spend long hours on their balconies in the sun, with their heads covered with the bottomless hat called Solana; they still moistened their beautiful hair with soap water, to neutralize the dangerous effect of a burning sun, while helping its discoloring influence.

"It is only from the 12th century onwards that the manufacture of soap is revealed as an industry. The factories themselves only date from this period. Progress was rapid from then on, but it was only under the influence of Colbert's untiring solicitude that Marseilles took away from its rivals, Savona, Genoa and Alicante, the reputation they had acquired in the manufacture of soap. In March 1669, Colbert freed the port of Marseille from all taxes and favoured the manufacture of soap by a series of regulatory or free edicts. The superiority of soaps made in Marseille reached such a degree that the Senate of Genoa was moved. It decreed that all soaps made in Genoa that were found to be of poor quality would be burned in the public square, and the decree was carried out.

"Today there are more than one hundred factories in Marseille which provide work for 20,000 workers, both for their own needs and for the industries they have created. But that is not all: Paris, Nantes, Rouen, Switzerland, Germany and England have borrowed its manufacturing processes and pay it the tribute of giving their products the name of Marseille soaps.

"Unfortunately, adulterations were not long in coming. Foreign bodies were introduced into the soap, increasing its weight to the detriment of its richness. Earth and pulverized talcum powder have been added; but it is easy to see this, because the talcum powder can be touched with the finger, as the soap is greyed out, and is deposited in an earthy layer during all the washing operations. Water has been added, but this is where the mottling comes in, which is rightly considered an indication of the good quality of the soap.

"To obtain the marbling, the coloured and insoluble soap that has separated from the useful product is not given time to settle; the bath is caught by cooling and moulding, when it descends in threads in the middle of the mass. This operation can only be done when the soap does not contain too much water, because soap is a real chemical combination and requires a fixed weight of water to form.

"But not only marbled soaps are made in Marseilles, but also an infinite number of special products which meet particular needs and which take the names of the oils or fats which enter into their composition.

"Toilet soaps are made with good quality oils, tallow or butter. At the end of the cooking process, the soap is stirred a little briskly to remove it and give it lightness; it is flavoured with essences and moulded.

"To make the soap transparent, it is dissolved in hot alcohol and poured into moulds; the solidified mass is opaque at first; it only becomes translucent after a few days.

"In short, the manufacture of Marseille soap is one of the most important and flourishing industries at the moment, thanks to the recent reduction of taxes that were weighing on it. It is to be hoped that fair competition will bring significant savings in manufacturing and greatly reduce the price, still too high, of this essential substance.

"But one must beware of the ease with which the strangest innovations are sometimes accepted.

"Here is an example: A great industrialist borrowed from egg white the albumin he needed for his preparations, but he still had the yolks, of which he could only manage to consume a small part, even though he had condemned his numerous workers to a diet of omelettes in perpetuity.

"A chemist, as ingenious as he was clever, had the idea of transforming these egg yolks into soap. This original conception had its moment of success, but it was soon realised that the egg yolk could only produce a questionable and expensive soap.

"Another invention had at least the merit of not altering the chemical itself and was based on a deep knowledge of the human heart.

"An industrialist had noticed that soap is rarely used up. When there is only a small piece left, which corresponds to the centre of the original soap, it is usually thrown away to make a new one. Our chemist thought of replacing this part of the soap with an inert and cheap material. A stone, a pebble for example. This is how he created: soap with a stone!

Before closing the chapter on perfumery, we ask the reader's permission to ask the following question:
How is it that perfumery was classified in the furniture group, when its true place was indicated in the group of clothing and its accessories?


It is true that bronze, which was a little less sought after during a certain period, has now regained a vogue that should never have left it.

The Barbedienne exhibition is naturally one of the most brilliant, the most remarkable works in terms of design, execution and finish abounded and were widely admired.

What a pleasure, what a feast for the eyes when one looked at the David before the fight and the David victorious, by Mercié, the Florentine Singer, by M. Paul Dubois, the Education maternelle by M. Delaplanche, and finally the Louis XIII by Rude!

Let us also mention the two busts in old silver bronze of Marguerite de Valois and Catherine de Médicis.

Naturally, this part of the Exhibition includes a considerable number of bronze clocks and candelabras.

We shall name at random the art and furnishing bronzes of the Martinet house, the art locksmith's shop of the Masson house, whose establishment on boulevard Richard Lenoir has the appearance of a real museum.

As for the Val d'Osne foundries, it is absolutely admirable; the Exhibition was full, moreover, of its bronzes, its statues, etc.

The watchmaking industry was represented mainly by Besançon.

Besançon currently employs forty thousand workers who produce about five hundred thousand watch blanks per year.

It struggles victoriously with the watchmaking industry in Geneva, which is now obliged to compete with French and American watchmaking.

At the hours, half hours and quarters, all these clocks, all these pendulums, which rang at the same time, constituted a real carillon.

We must admit, however, that most of these clocks were in absolute disagreement with each other and that, surprisingly, it was not exactly in the class of clock-making that one should go if one wanted to know the exact time.

Saint-Nicolas d'Aliermont, in the Seine-Inférieure, was the birthplace of the French watchmaking industry; it now has twelve factories employing a thousand workers.

We have already mentioned Besançon, and we will not return to it; the other towns where the watch industry flourishes are Morez, in the Jura, and Montbéliard.

Here is the figure for French watch production:
Paris.......................... 22,000,000
Saint-Nicolas................... 1,500,000
Cluset.......................... 1,500,000
Besançon...................... 24,000,000
Morez.......................... 4,000,000
Montbéliard..................... 9,000,000
Total.................. 62,000,000

Cutlery is subdivided into articulated or spring-loaded cutlery, fixed-blade cutlery, such as hunting knives, butchers' knives, kitchen knives, etc.; scissors, razors, and polished steel hardware.

The main manufacturing centres for French cutlery are Thiers, Langres, Nogent, Paris and Châtellerault.

The French cutlery industry does an annual sum of business which can be evaluated at 22 million francs at least; but it has, we must admit, difficulty in fighting against the English article.

Class 29, which includes leather goods, tableware and basketry, represents one of the most essential parts of what is known as the Paris article and which is so sought after throughout the world.

We will not stop in front of these graceful windows, however; we would be carried too far if we had to describe all those delightful trinkets which made the joy of the visitors and which were bought with such eagerness.

We will not leave this class without mentioning one of its most admirable wonders, the vase by Gustave Doré :
Gustave Doré is a universally famous draughtsman, he is a painter of such value that the critics cling to his shoes with the ardour of a hungry pack whenever he offers them the opportunity; he is also a talented sculptor, and he handles the steel point with success; everyone knew that, it was already ancient history. Now he has taken it upon himself to model a colossal vase, an unexpected thing, even for him, a masterpiece, I'm sure!

A place of honour has been given to this new work of the powerful artist at the Champ de Mars; it is in the passage which leads from the Rapp gate to the pavilion of the City of Paris. This vase has been modelled in the shape of a bottle with a large body, of an elegant and graceful design. From top to bottom, a swarm of loves, nymphs, fauns and satyrs are swarming, pulling, colliding, wrestling, jostling each other in the midst of the vines and grapes, appearing to struggle here and there to see who will reach the top first, that is to say the neck, to quench their thirst, I presume. However, a few loves are already astride the edge of this spout, making all sorts of joyful faces at each other and laughing at the efforts of the others.

All around the foot, a new crowd of young loves are busy squeezing the juice from the bunches, or frolicking with insects, or chasing small reptiles that flee into the grass. - But all this mythological crowd is not thrown at random on the bouncing body, along the neck, around the foot of this singular vase: so many groups, so many distinct and well-marked episodes, not to mention the isolated lovers whose absent-mindedness makes them take a perilous and unexpected tumble.

It is a charming work. However, it is only the plaster model, as there would not have been enough time to cast it in bronze, to chisel it, to finish it before the opening of the Exhibition; but it is a well-cared-for model, lovingly adorned, in a state to be presented successfully, the greenish tones that disguise it in bronze really do make an illusion. This does not add to the merit of the vase, no doubt, but at least makes it worthwhile.

Before concluding, we would like to ask the reader's permission to talk about four beautiful sculpted panels which have been much noticed in a Paris shop and which resurrect the wonders of the Renaissance.

All four are taken from a manuscript in the Nantes library, entitled :
Les Monuments de la Monarchie française avec les figures de chaque règne que l'injure des temps a épargées, by the R. P. Dom Bernard de Monlfaucon, a Benedictine monk of the Congregation of Saint-Maur.

The first depicts the siege of a city in the 17th century. The second is a reproduction of a miniature depicting the court of King Francis I.

It seems," says Dom Bernard, "that the faces are copied from life; so that if Ton had known paintings of the great lords of the court, they could be recognised. The king is seated on his throne, wearing the royal cloak in the form of a chlamydia, this outer garment reaching down to the fat of the leg.

Dom Bernard's manuscript also provides us with curious information on the miniature reproduced by the neighbouring panel, the subject of which is the trial of the Constable of Bourbon.

It seems," he says, "that the person who made or commissioned the painting wanted to represent the court of the twelve peers here. Yet he puts, I do not know why, seven on one side and seven on the other.

attached to the right shoulder. On his left side, we see the young dauphin Henry, without a beard, and his brother the Duke of Orleans, turned to another side. The lords of the court on either side of his throne are mostly bearded or beardless. They all wear the collar of Tordre and are dressed in the same way; they have a black cap apparently of velvet where some have a feather attached. They are all seen wearing a kind of cap with a large collar and wide sleeves that only go up to the elbow;

"At the end of the front of this building supported on columns, where the assembly is held, he has placed on the right the coats of arms of the six secular peers, the dukes of Burgundy, Normandy, Aquitaine, the counts of Flanders, Champagne and Toulouse; and on the left, those of the ecclesiastical peers, who are not all in their ranks. Rheims is after Langres, but, as I have already said, these varieties are found so frequently that one does not stop there.

"The judgment was pronounced against the Constable de Bourbon, whose end was such : that the court declared him and declares him a criminal of leze-majesté, rebellion and felony and ordered and ordains that the arms and ensigns appropriate particularly to the person of the said Duke of Bourbon, displayed in his honour in this kingdom, shall be struck out and erased, and deprived him and deprives him of the cognomination of this name of Bourbon as having notoriously degenerated from the morals and fidelity of the antecedents of the said house of Bourbon, damning and abolishing the memory and fame in perpetuity as a crime of the said leze-majesté, and in addition declared and declares all and each of the feudal goods which belong to the said de Bourbon held to the crown of France mediately or immediately to be returned to it and each of the other goods, movable and immovable confiscated. " As for the panel at the bottom of the page, representing the reception of a knight of the Order of Saint Michael by King Henry II, Dom Bernard's manuscript only provides the following information:
"The robe of the king and the knights seated at his side is white and the collar is red. The coat of arms at the bottom is apparently that of the knight.

As we can see, M. Delmas has revived a genre that had long been abandoned. Obviously, beautiful furniture is made today; sculptors compete with talent to make the decoration as rich as possible; but they are still limited most often by the question of price. It is not enough to make an artistic piece of furniture, it must also be able to be sold; so manufacturers do not dare to venture into historical sculpture. They do have a few isolated figures executed; but none of them would have wanted to undertake what Mr. Delmas did, that is to say, panels containing up to fifty or sixty figures.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878