Last week I took a “busman’s holiday” and spent an afternoon going to museums. The Cooper-Hewitt was on my list because I wanted to catch the temporary exhibition The “Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s.”
I had already happily wandered through rooms and rooms of radios, jewelry, textiles, architectural renderings, and furniture, when I spied a small but rich selection of perfume bottles. Here are my snapshots…They’re not great, but they give an idea of what I saw.
For example: the superstar duo, pictured above, of Chanel no. 5 (1921; bottle designed by Julien Viard and produced by Brosse Glassworks) and Guerlain Shalimar (1925; bottle designed by Raymond Guerlain and produced by Baccarat).
And here’s another icon: Lanvin’s mother-and-daughter logo, created by artist Paul Iribe. The gilded bronze sculpture (ca. 1929) is a stunning three-dimensional version of the famous logo.The bottle at left, designed by Armand-Albert Rateau and produced by Brosse, originally held L’Ame Perdue (Lost Soul) perfume.
It’s fitting that these are installed in a case with jewelry.
Weil’s Antilope (1928) was once sold in this gilded glass bottle designed by Georges Schwander in 1931 and manufactured by Brosse. The stylized antelope is running through a grove of trees, and the cap is designed to resemble a leafy treetop.
What a color! I’d ever heard of the perfume house of Agnès before, but the deep cobalt blue of this pyramidal bottle for Alleluia d’Amour (launched in 1927) is definitely eye-catching. I’ve just read that Madame Agnès was a Parisian milliner who commissioned Jean Dunand to design this presentation.
The name AGNES is molded into the meander pattern that encircles the pyramid.
And here’s an American brand: Hattie Carnegie, a New York-based designer of fashion and jewelry. This bottle and packaging, dated ca. 1925, was designed by Julien Viard and manufactured by Dépinoix. I don’t know the name of the fragrance it originally held. Perhaps Ms. Carnegie’s first, eponymous scent?
And here’s the pièce de résistance: Jean Patou’s “Cocktail Bar Perfume Presentation,” as the label describes it, designed by Jean Patou and Louis Süe and manufactured by Brosse Glassworks. It’s a large but portable case of fine burlwood that closes and locks. According to the Cooper-Hewitt,
This bar-form set held a selection of liquor bottle–like perfume bottles entitled “Bittersweet,” “Sweet,” “Dry” and “Angostura no. 1” through “Angostura no. 7” that equated the sensuality of perfume with drinking in a not-so-subtle reference to the illicit cocktail culture during American prohibition. The empty bottle entitled “My Own” was provided to encourage the owner to mix and match her own scent.
Here’s a look from above, so that you can see the neat organization of the bottles and all the ancillary bits: a beaker, pipettes, Patou-branded blotters and notepads. I’d love to know who originally owned this set. Can’t you just picture her, dressed in one of her favorite Patou gowns, sitting down to dab and sniff and mix?
The Shalimar bottle belongs to the Cooper-Hewitt (
Gift of Guerlain, Inc.,1954-33-1-a,b). The other bottles all belong to the Christie Mayer Lefkowith Collection and were loaned to the Cooper-Hewitt for this exhibition.
“The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” runs through August 20, 2017 at the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.
All photos by the Perfume Professor.