“The fragrance of luxury.” Collections of the Sosenko family – a collection of perfume vessels illustrating the history of fragrance

“The fragrance of luxury” collection of antique perfume bottles is one of the thematic sections found in the Sosenko Family Collection – a selection of privately owned items which include exhibits of unique museum and artistic value. They cover many areas of the history of material human culture. These collections are made available to the public in the form of exhibitions, publications, lectures, educational and iconographic materials.

The idea behind creating the “Fragrance of luxury” collection was to present the history of the perfume bottle as a work of art, from ancient to modern times. The author of this concept is Katarzyna Sosenko, an art historian, antiquarian, and curator of the Sosenko collections. The collection is unique in character. It is the only project of this type on a national scale. The versatility of the exhibits and the ever developing narration allow the exhibits to be interpreted on various levels: artistic, historical, cultural, and moral.

The collection includes all historical periods illustrated with selected examples of ancient vessels and bottles for fragrances in the following styles and chronology: ancient Greece, ancient Rome, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism, Biedermeier, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Polish design during the communist period. One feature of the collection is the presentation of the history of artistic craftsmanship. Precious materials were used in the production of perfume bottles, such as expensive metals and stones, enamel, rock crystal, tortoiseshell, ivory, or pearls. The vessels were decorated with elaborate techniques of artistic craftsmanship, such as engraving, carving, gilding, inlay or intarsia. Perfume bottles are also a source of knowledge about the design of bygone eras. The form of the vessels and individual ornamentation make it possible to define the aesthetic preferences bygone eras.

The collection includes many bottles designed by prominent artists, as well as commercial packagings which illustrate the development of graphic design and the art of advertising. Particularly noteworthy are the designs by René Lalique – an artist and fashion designer employed by Francois Coty, Elsa Schiaparelli – who created many designs inspired by Surrealism, or Lou Doufman, who was the creator of a bottle design for the most famous perfume in the world, Chanel No. 5, whose form has not changed since its inception in 1921. A great example is Roger & Gallet, who received the Grand Prix at the International Exposition in Paris in 1900 for a luxurious case made of red, satin silk.

The concept of the design, exhibits, and iconographic values gained recognition as part of a prestigious project during the “Fragrance – an invisible code” exhibition at the Copernicus Science Centre organised by the French Institute and the Goethe Institute in Poland. Selected exhibits from the collection, not available to the general public on a daily basis, are presented at the WMM website.

Elaborated by: Katarzyna Sosenko (Collection of the Sosenko Family Foundation),

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

 

ul. Królewska 16
30–045 Kraków


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Opening hours

January  — December
Monday  — Friday
10.00 — 19.00
Saturday
10.00 — 16.00

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Objects

Perfume bottle in a basket made of gilded bronze with the word “SYLVIDIA”

The perfume bottle has the form of a cubical decanter with a thick neck and a bevelled stopper in the shape of an octagon.

Roger&Gallet bottle in a case

The crystal bottle takes the form of a decanter similar to a cuboid in shape, with a neck featuring a wide flange and a glass stopper. The crystal knob-shaped stopper is cut into in a bevelled pattern. Its rim, made from a gilded mass and featuring a carmine ribbon, is decorated with a gilded ornament.

Casket with a set of two perfume bottles

The casket is equipped with a lock and made of dark wood. On the lid, there is an inscription inlaid with light wood and written in Fraktur, which reads: “Odeurs,” encompassed by a thin frame wrought using the technique of intarsia.

Modernist perfume bottle with a cubistic shape

The perfume bottle is made of black hyalith glass. The body of the vessel has a cubistic shape, has been bevelled into the form of a diamond.

Vessel for potpourri – mixtures of dried flowers

The porcelain vase in the form of an urn, with openings in the lid, was intended for storing potpourris, i.e. scented mixtures made from dried herbs and flowers. The body of the vessel has a circular cross-section, is elongated, narrows at the base and turns into a round base on a square stand.

Oblong Biedermeier-style perfume bottle

A perfume bottle in the form of a slim vial made of hand-moulded glass. The body of the vessel is polished on four sides into four very narrow bevels. The surfaces of the bevels are hand-painted with simplified floral ornaments and a simplified acanthus tendril.

Perfume bottle in the original leather case

The perfume bottle, in the form of a decanter, is made of transparent glass. The bottle’s stopper is also glass, moulded by hand, in the form of a knob.

Crystal glass perfume bottle

The crystal bottle is set in a silver frame. The glass body with a high neck is cut into bevels across the entire surface. The silver base of the bottle was shaped by hand, and extended at the base.

Carved perfume bottles

Both the perfume bottles have been made of bovine bone and decorated with scenes carved in a very precise manner. The darker bottle, in the shape of a vial with flattened sides, depicts a figure with a fan in a Chinese garden on both of its sides. In the background, there is a pagoda, a garden fence, a tree and, in the foreground, there is a shrub with flowers. In one of the depictions, the figure with a fan is leaning over flowers, and in the other, it rests under a tree, admiring the garden vegetation.

Perfume bottle in the form of a wineskin

The porcelain perfume bottle has the shape of a wineskin with the cross-section of a polygon. The vessel’s body is straight, without any narrowing, crowned by a spout with a flange expanding at the top, with a porcelain stopper inserted.

Multi-layer polished perfume bottle

The perfume bottle is made of surface-dyed, ruby-coloured bevelled glass. The body of the vessel is spacious, tapering at the sides but extends and rounds at the top. The neck is wide, also bevelled and topped by a flange.

Guerlain perfume bottle in a case

The set consists of a crystal perfume bottle with a stopper and a cardboard case. The bottle comes in the form of a bulky decanter similar in shape to to a rectangular prism, with volutes facing downwards at its neck. The stopper is polished, in the shape of a leaf, a spade from a pack of playing cards. A round paper label with the name “MITSOJKO” is set on one of the sides of the bottle, against the background formed by an ornamentation composed of a pattern of red floral tendrils.

Chanel perfume bottle designed by Lou Doufman

The set consists of a glass bottle and the original Chanel No 5 cardboard perfume box. The bottle is made of crystal glass, in the form of a flattened rectangular decanter, with a bevelled crystal stopper.

Bottle with “KAMELIA” floral water

The perfume bottle has the form of a cuboidal decanter with a thick neck and a glass stopper. It is made of colourless glass. The stopper is cut in a flower shape. Inside the bottle, there is a dried flower. At the base of the front side – a triangular label with the inscription: “Millana / woda kwiatowa / MILANÓWEK.”

A cologne bottle made of milk glass

Made of milk glass, the bottle in the form of a cylindrical decanter with a stopper is decorated with a floral ornamentation and a painted plate which reads “COLOGNE”.

Perfume bottle with a landscape

The porcelain perfume bottle has a rounded body fluted at the sides, a wide base and an elongated neck. The gilded porcelain stopper has the shape of a rosette.

Porcelain bottle with a floral medallion

A porcelain bottle in the form of a decanter with a stopper, painted on the whole surface in cobalt colour, with oval panels featuring floral compositions and gilded ornaments.

Biedermeier-style cobalt perfume bottle

The perfume bottle is made of cobalt glass, painted using the technique of surface dyeing. The body of the vessel is very shallow and wide, with a strip of round bevels surrounding it, which have been emphasized by a golden line painted along them.

Biedermeier-style perfume bottle with pink and black bevels

The Biedermeier-style glass perfume bottle is finished with a bevelled, sharp-tipped stopper. The body of the vessel, in the form of an inverted pyramid with a bevelled top, ends in a base shaped like a flower with lapidary cuts.

Bottle with the original labels of a Muelhens cologne

The cologne container has the form of a bottle with a rectangular cross-section. It is made of transparent glass. There is a decorative bulge on the neck of the bottle.

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