La cour parfumée (The Perfumed Court)

Louis XIV, 1670 by Robert Nanteuil, Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Perfumery enjoyed special prominence under the reign of the glamorous and often sickly Louis XIV. The king was nicknamed le doux fleurant (the sweet flowery one) on account of his fascination with odors, which he used copiously for both medicinal and aesthetic reasons.

Portrait of Louis XV, 18th century by Gilles Jacques Petit, Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Under Louis XIV’s successor, his great-grandson Louis XV, perfume and perfumed products were in higher demand than ever in what came to be known as la cour parfumée—the perfumed court.

Marie-Antoinette (after 1783), After Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun

Queen Marie Antoinette had a fragrance just for her, made by perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon. The queen loved floral aromas and the rich fragrance was inspired by the surrounding nature of the Petit Trianon, her favourite getaway in the surrounding gardens of Versailles. It is said the strong perfume was her demise during her family’s attempted escape from the Tuileries during the revolution. Marie Antoinette had luxurious daily baths. When most people only bathed once a year, Mary had daily baths in her private bathroom. Created by perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon, the Bain the Modestie allowed her to bathe without being exposed to the eyes of the chambermaids. The queen would dress a flannel chemise and sit inside a tub filled with lavender and lemon scented water, on a cushion packed with linseeds, marshmallow roots, lily bulbs, sweet almonds and pine nuts. She then washed herself with muslim sachets filled with exfoliating brans and soaps with herbs, amber and bergamot.

Marie Antoinette’s perfume kit, XVIII century, France / CC-BY

Parfum de Trianon (for Marie-Antoinette by Jean-Louis Fargeon)
Rose, Orange Blossom, Petitgrain, Bergamot, Lavender, Lemon, Galbanum, Iris, Violet, Narcissus, Lily, Tuberose, Vanilla, Cedar, Sandalwood, Amber, Musk, Benzoin

In 2016, The Palace of Versailles and Guerlain partnered to produce a limited edition perfume “The Queen’s Bouquet,” sold by subscription to the profit of the restoration of the royal apartments. A product of the combined initiative and imagination of the two prestigious houses, embodyING French skills and excellence, The Queen’s Bouquet, created by perfume maker Thierry Wasser, has been inspired by the gardens of Versailles and Trianon.

Long form articles:

Splendid Century : Life in the France of Louis XIV

Lewis, W. H.

Published by Waveland Press, Incorporated (1997)

ISBN 10: 0881339210 ISBN 13: 9780881339215

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