“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
10.00 — 16.00

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Ring for perfume

The massive ring is made of metal, painted in gold and decorated with a hemispherical ornament and a thin, striped ring around the socket. There is pearl inside the socket.

Bottle and a pouncet-box decorated with enamel

The flat perfume bottle has been made of gilded metal. The body of the vessel narrows down slightly towards the bottom. The pouncet-box has been made of gilded metal. The walls of the pouncet-box have been decorated on their entire surfaces – except for the edges – using blue enamel.

Snuffbox with a miniature painted by Jan Matejko

The brass snuffbox has the form of a round pouncet-box. On the lid of the snuffbox, there is a tondo with a miniature portrait of a girl painted with gouache on a sheet of metal by Jan Matejko. The girl, captured en trois quarts, is wearing a blue dress with cleavage and a lace trim...

Perfume bottle with a chain

The glass perfume bottle has the form of a high vial with a hexagonal cross-section and is made of azure solid-coloured glass. The walls of the bottle are decorated alternately with a white simplified rocaille motif on the background of azure glass or painted over in gold...

Perfume bottles on a chain

The two perfume bottles with flat bodies have circular and oval cross-sections. They have been framed by gilded metal.

Miniature bottle in the form of a shell

The porcelain perfume bottle has the form of the shell of a sea snail. The body of the vessel is decorated with brown spots emphasizing the natural appearance of the item’s form. The neck of the bottle has been framed by gilded metal and decorated with a vegetal ornament.

Snuffboxes made of shells

The two snuffboxes have been made of shells in golden frames. The first has the form of a bottle consisting of two halves of a shell. The edges at the point where the halves connect are framed with a golden strip featuring an astragal. The second snuffbox has the form of a pouncet-box made of two halves of a shell. The halves are framed at the edges in gold, decorated with an astragal and connected by hinges.

First aid kit

The portable first aid kit has been made of wood varnished in black. Inside the chest for the first aid kit, there are shelves, dividers and drawers. The dividers are painted in navy blue, the edges – in red. The drawers have fronts, panels and metal handles varnished in black. Each of them is additionally protected by a sliding lid.

Pair of perfume bottles with a floral pattern

The pair of twin porcelain perfume bottles is in the form of a bulky decanter with a shape similar to a cube. On the side walls of the vessels, floral compositions are painted with golden paint.

Decorative travelling box

The decorative travelling box with a lock has the form of a chest and is made of wood, varnished in black. On the outside of the lid, there is a round plaque with a decorative border and no inscriptions.

Perfume bottle made of milk glass

The perfume bottle is made of milk glass and has a slender shape. The shallow and wide body has been situated on a flat base and decorated with a strip of bevelled maroon cabochons, framed by a line of golden paint.

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.

Perfume bottles with floral motives

The perfume bottle made of milk glass has the form of a decanter with an elongated neck. The body of the vessel, extending at the top, smoothly runs into a neck topped by a flange, on which triple profiling in the form of rings is visible.

Miniature heart-shaped bottle

The silver heart-shaped bottle was intended for storing fragrances. On one side of the vessel, a decorative entwined monogram has been engraved (initials “RC” or “CR”?), topped by a crown. The motif is placed in a frame consisting of a decorative border featuring a simple ornament composed of triangles and matching the shape of the heart.

Bottle decorated with enamel

The small metal bottle has the form of an amphora. The belly of the vessel narrows down at the bottom, and the neck – short, with a flange passing through the vessel’s lugs, to which a chain is attached. A metal stopper with a ring is plugged into the neck, to which a chain has also been attached.

Miniature bottles

The bottles have been made of colourless glass. The first one is in the shape of a heart and is bevelled at the edges.

Vessel for vaseline

The porcelain vaseline vessel has a cylindrical shape and a metal lid. The body of the vessel has been painted on the glass into cobalt-coloured patterns. The black inscription “Vaselinum” is flanked by swans positioned alternately.

Tin mug

The tin mug has a profiled base and bottom part of the body; slightly expanded at the top. The vessel is devoid of decorations.

Oval snuffbox

The oval snuffbox has been made from bovine bone. The lid of the snuffbox is mounted on metal hinges. Around the body and on the lid, rivets and traces of folding/securing the bone plates to the body of the container are visible.

Snuffbox in the shape of a heart

The heart-shaped snuffbox has been made from bovine bone. The lid of the snuffbox is mounted on metal hinges. Around the body and on the lid, rivets and traces of folding/securing the bone plates to the body of the container are visible.

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