The Institute for Art & Olfaction at The Wallace Collection for Froth and Folly: Scent in the 18th Century French Court


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Today was one of those rare days when it’s like the heavenly bodies align to bring together so many things I love – perfume, 18th century France, The Institute for Art & Olfaction AND The Wallace Collection – into one gorgeously fragrant gift from the gods…

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The Institute for Art & Olfaction’s Saskia Wilson-Brown was in London to host Froth and Folly: Scent in the 18th Century French Court at The Wallace Collection on Manchester Square.  I was fortunate to score the very last ticket to the event no less than 24 hours after reading about it in a post on Twitter.  I was very excited to be attending, not only for the subject matter which is of great interest to me, but also because Ms Wilson-Brown had graciously taken the time to answer several questions I had sent to her for an article I was working on for the upcoming Issue Four of OUDO Magazine.  She shared the most fascinating insight, and the events she described that take place at The IAO sound so engaging and thought provoking.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore all of the various subjects that I have been introduced to during my fragrant exploits this past year.


One of the key aspects discussed at today’s event was the turning point of perfume in the 18th century from its uses for medicinal purposes during the reign of Louis XIV, nicknamed ‘Le Doux Fleurant’ (the sweet-smelling), to its more modern incarnation as a luxury accoutrement during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette…

“It is no surprise then that the 18th century marked a turning point for perfumery – mirroring the advances made in philosophy with the Enlightenment, and propelled by advances made in distillation.  Moving far from its 17th century usage as an aspect of functional medicine, by the time of the French Revolution perfumery was being created for almost exclusively aesthetic pleasures.”


Ms Wilson-Brown presented Froth & Folly, which included everything from a 1709 Eau de Cologne formulation by Jean-Marie Farina to the practical application of fragrance in Cassoilettes (odiferous pellets burn to alleviate ‘bad air’), fans and handkerchiefs, with enough information to demonstrate the relevance of the subject whilst also steering well clear of leading us down a full on history lesson.  We examined some of the key ingredients used in 18th century perfume, sampled Ms Wilson-Brown’s own interpretation of Jean-Louis Fargéon’s Parfum de Trianon and also had the opportunity to blend our very fragrances using the ingredients discussed.

It was such a fun day, and the atmosphere at the event was brilliant – very down to earth and everyone seemed really excited to be getting involved.  I absolutely loved it, and I really hope today was just the first of many visits the Institute for Art & Olfaction will be making to London.

A full calendar of events at The Institute for Art & Olfaction can be found here.

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