Research project “Being a Perfumer at Versailles, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI” (2017)

Francis Kurkdjian, perfumer, founder of the Maison Francis Kurkdjian and manager of the company Création Parfum Conseil, approached the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles with a proposal for a collaboration on the research project “Being a Perfumer at Versailles, from Louis XIV to Louis XVI”.
As part of this scientific partnership, the Centre de recherche welcomes Alice Camus as researcher in charge of this project. Her work is supervised by Mathieu da Vinha, scientific director at the Centre de recherche.

Vases and Flowers.
Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, 1676-1700. Oil on canvas. Château de Versailles (MV 7214). © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN / Christophe Fouin.

Objectives and ultimate aims

Under the Ancien Régime, the glovemakers-perfumers made many products for their clientele: gloves, scented water, powders, creams, make-up, pastels, etc. Although the products themselves have been studied on numerous occasions, the men who manufactured them, are, however, little known. Some of these artisans specifically supplied the court of Versailles.
This project aims to produce an in-depth analysis of these artisans as part of a socio-cultural study. Most perfumers who supplied the court enjoyed the status of a marchand suivant la cour, which gave them much greater commercial freedom than those carrying out the same profession in the Paris corporation. This status was a privilege that could be bought. However, a perfumer who did not have this status could also supply the court. Privileged merchants and city artisans did not therefore work in two separate spheres, and their frequent interactions were often interspersed with legal disputes linked to their mutual interests.
This project aims to understand the social and cultural milieu in which these perfumers lived, by exploring the family alliances that they secured, the networks to which they belonged, the assets they owned and the way they conducted their business. Furthermore, to understand the links they maintained with the court of Versailles, it is necessary to study their clientele and the products they sold. An analysis of their suppliers will also shed light on the circulation of the raw materials and merchandise used in perfumery.

This project will lead to various publications and further developments.

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