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Perfumery Gallery - Expo Paris 1889

Perfumery Gallery at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

The perfumery class is one of the most popular. And then, they give you small gifts, boxes of rice powder or toothpaste, Lilliputian bottles, it is not much, but it gives a lot of pleasure. This is the general thought of many ladies, for gentlemen are not entitled to any munificence.

It can be divided into two branches. The one that manufactures the raw materials, in the south of France, and the one that makes the preparations.

This last category is even subdivided into several others. There are, in fact, the factories of cheap products, of ordinary quality, which are wrapped with less research, because in perfumery the wrapping has a great, even the greatest importance. For the factories of expensive products, the scents are more learned, more enervating or more voluptuous, this industry borders on art, almost.

The envelopes are brilliant, rich, it is absolutely necessary to please in every way, to intoxicate the public so that it becomes a customer.

French perfumery is still the leader, although we have to compete with the English.

Now it is only a matter of choosing from the countless products displayed in the windows: violet, violet quintessence, essence of iris, tuberose, rose, reseda, jasmine, etc., all the essences are there. A nice New Year's gift to give would be a kilo of liquid or concrete essence of violet, it costs 3,110 francs, it is however probable that one would prefer something else for that price, especially since the essence of violet is well discussed, some scholars completely deny its existence.

Then we see the Florence iris, which usually comes from San Marino.

In a showcase are stuffed animals. The civet, the musk deer and the musk deer. The musk that forms the basis, the fixative so to speak of all perfumes, is found in a small pocket that this ruminant carries near the genitals, between these organs and the umbilicus. As for the civet, it is a carnivorous mammal, which also provides a musky product secreted by glands situated below the anus, and grouped around a pocket where this product, called civet, is concentrated. It is removed with a small spoon.

We see in a showcase, an apparatus for distilling rose oil in Bulgaria, this apparatus is quite primitive, the oil is sent in sealed cans.

And then comes the whole series of extraordinary products, preserving a perpetual youth to those who use them, the make-up among others. They date back to ancient times. They are the first of all cosmetics intended to hide the disasters of age. And as La Fontaine says :
And make-up cannot make that one escapes time, this insignificant thief.
The ruins of a house can be repaired; what is this advantage for the ruins of the face!

The oldest make-up is antimony sulphide, with which eyes and eyebrows were made. It was the Greeks who created the white and red blush that was later adopted by Roman ladies. In general, blushes are dangerous and always damage the skin in the long run.

There are still virginal milks, which contain everything but milk. An emulsion of benzoin or bitter almonds gives the beautiful white colour. Then there are the anti-ephedrine milks, which make the skin's spots disappear temporarily. And products that make hair and beards grow, even on heads that have never had the slightest wispy hair, such as the ointment whose effects can be seen in the Devil's Pills.

Water for dyeing in all colours is not lacking, except for bleaching, there are all the other shades. Hydrogen peroxide gives you all the desirable blonds, silver and lead salts give you hair as black as crows.

Finally, toothpastes, pastes, lotions of all kinds and soaps, especially glycerine soaps. And the most curious thing is that these two products, soaps and glycerine, are as incompatible as night and day, one drives out the other, you make soap, so you set glycerine free. Soaps obviously do not need to contain glycerine for use, and if they did, it would be impossible. In fact, natural fats are made up of stearin, margarine, olein, butyrin, etc., and when these principles are brought into contact with water and alkali, with the help of heat, they produce salts made up of stearic, margaric, oleic and butyric acids, combined with alkali and a new substance, glycerine. The mixture of alkaline salts constitutes the soap, and the liquid glycerine remains in solution in the water, from which the soap mass is removed, and which is carefully squeezed to expel the water and consequently the glycerine.

But, I repeat, the presence of glycerine would not be necessary in soap, even if it were possible.

Fine soaps are made with axonge and hot, common soaps are made with tallow, fat, coconut and palm oil. Horse fat also makes very smooth soaps.

Finally, we should not forget to mention rice powders, which do not contain any trace of rice flour, but do contain dangerous salts such as ceruse. However, don't be afraid, there are harmless powders, even hair dyes, especially blond ones. The trick is to choose wisely.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - L. Phalanchet.