Turns out the Florentine Medicis did more than maneuver themselves into banking, trading, art and money making. But before we give them all the credit, let’s back-track to note that ancients used olive oil as a base for plants, herbs, and botanical extracts—tons of them, such as frankincense and myrrh and used the potions liberally on their bodies for wellbeing. Alchemists and more centuries of historical magic brought Venetian oils, resins, and spices into the picture before, during and after the Italian Renaissance.
Catherine de Medici, Queen of France from 1547 to 1559 set the trend of fragrance aloft with her scented leather opera gloves and in all manner of scented garments for that matter, even scenting leather shoes because she did not like the scent of leather. She was to marry Henri II of France and left Florence in 1553, but not without her own personal perfumer, René de Florentin.
Italian perfumery was making history. Next on stage was Giovanni Paolo Feminis, known as Giampaolo, born in the Italian Alps in 1666, emigrated to Germany, opened a perfumery shop creating innovative fragrances using herbs and recipes from monks. It was his alcohol-based distillation process and not oil-based that produced a light, fresh, herbal and citrus scent that became known as Aqua Mirabilis. It was his fundamental production methods that led the way to worldwide perfume manufacture.
Giovanni Maria Farina, Giampaolo’s nephew, took over Feminis’ business to update the perfume name to Jean-Marie Farina Eau de Cologne, now at home with other top fragrances worldwide.
More on fragrance (and seduction) in the next post.