“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


phone + 48 535 184 440

Opening hours

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

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Objects

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.

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.

Toiletries

The set of toilet accessories consists of: a folding razor, a brush, a folding knife, a spoon and two spatulas for applying creams.

“Californian Poppy” bottle and cases

A set of two cardboard cases and a glass bottle for “Californian Poppy” perfumes. All the items have been decorated with organic Art Nouveau ornaments.

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.

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”.

Bottle in the shape of a castle

Made of colourless glass, the perfume bottle has the surprising shape of a castle. The stopper, made of gilded glass, constitutes its roof. The style of the castle’s architectural form is the so-called French costume – a neo-Renaissance style with elements of Baroque, characteristic of the 2nd half of the 19th century.

Fan with a court scene

The fan is made of a hand-painted fabric. In the fan’s folds, richly decorated fields with various floral patterns featuring a palette of blues and pinks, coloured using paint gouache, arranged vertically, are clearly visible. Through the floral compositions, there diamond-shaped ornaments, sewn in using golden thread, with the addition of sequins and beads at the corners. Along the fan, runs a strip of alternating brown and azure-blue panels, with white and pink flowers running respectively, in various compositions.

Fan with a tortoiseshell holder

The fan is made of paper/leather, painted to show depictions of garden scenes in three separate fields. In the central, largest field, a scene containing a depiction of drinking tea in a garden has been painted. Two ladies are talking with an officer in a blue uniform at a set table. In the background, a garden wall and vegetation are visible.

Fan with a romantic scene

The fan is made of paper, with an ivory handle and ribbing. On the paper, there are scenes drawn using a visual technique, painted with gouache. The main scene on the fan shows a couple embracing on a bridge in an English garden. At the couple’s feet, a cupid is pointing to a rose. An expansive landscape including an aerial view, turning into an amply painted gold ornament featuring vegetal tendrils with purple flowers constitutes the scene’s background.

Roger&Gallet packagings

Three Roger&Gallet packagings: two cardboard pouncet-boxes and a glass bottle.

Bottles for cologne

Three perfume bottles with labels of the Fryderyk Puls brand.

“Chypre” perfume bottles in a cardboard case

The cuboidal cardboard case is covered with imitation leather and comes with a lid. The size of the case is matched to three perfume bottles. The three bottles are shaped like cuboidal decanters, with stoppers made of colourless glass.

Roger&Gallet perfume case

The cardboard case for a perfume bottle is cuboid shaped with bevelled corners. The side walls of the case have been tinted into a colour imitating gold and decorated at the top and bottom with thin strips of an ornament composed of golden leaves on a cobalt background.

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.

Essence Naïs perfume in a case

A glass perfume bottle with an elongated neck and a polished glass stopper. On the bottle, there is a paper label in the form of a cartouche with a golden Régence ornament on a blue background and a beige field with a colourful graphic and inscriptions.

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.

Perfume bottle with a coat of arms

The glass perfume bottle has a form similar to a cone. The wide bottom of the vessel’s body transitions to the narrow upper part in a straight line. Under the neck of the bottle, there is a wide bevelled strip of concavity.

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...

Biedermeier-style glass perfume bottle

This glass perfume bottle takes the form of a bulky cuboid decanter with a short neck and a stopper. The body of the vessel is bevelled, with concavities at the corners.

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