Perfume Bottles: Once Fragrant

Perfume Bottles: Once Fragrant

China's unique scent of grass and wood gradually fades away after the plants die or burn to ashes. However, when the tomb of Tutankhamun is opened, the mysterious scent of Egypt's perfume still remains as strong as it was when it was sealed. Objects that are associated with incense and fragrance include various types of incense burners, incense balls, or incense sachets. The containers of perfume, made of precious materials, are often equally exquisite and luxurious perfume bottles.

At that time, perfume was not only used for sensory pleasure but was also a carrier of social status or religious intent. Similarly, perfume bottles were also imbued with these concepts. One type of container was made primarily of white snowflake stone, decorated with obsidian, agate, gold, and dyed glass. The slender and elegant shape is actually an imitation of ritual ceremonial objects. In the center of the bottle is a young princess standing on a blue water lily that blooms with the rising sun, symbolizing rebirth in the eyes of the Egyptians.

Roman perfume bottles from the reign of Nero

During Nero's reign in ancient Rome, Romans had an obsessive love for perfume, which can be seen in the numerous perfume bottles that have been excavated. The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses nearly one hundred Roman perfume bottles from the first century and beyond, mostly made of crystal clear glass, with exquisite hues and unique shapes.

One type of perfume bottle has an unusually distinctive shape, with a gradually tapering and sharpening base that imbues the bottle with a sense of fluidity, as if the glass is gradually melting and about to drop with the infusion of the perfume. However, the design clearly lacks the practicality that a container should have, as the bottle cannot stand in any position. Given this situation, the explanation may be that the owner of this perfume bottle no longer needs it to stand upright. When we look back at Greek artifacts, there is a kind of perfume bottle with a similar bottom treatment. The unstable center of gravity and the exaggerated retraction of the bottom of the bottle. In the Greek world, such perfume bottles would be placed underground with the deceased after the funeral ceremony. So, Romans have also absorbed this shape, hoping to remain in the fragrant atmosphere even after death.

With the rise of Christianity, the medieval church demanded that people stay away from perfume, as it was a symbol of luxury and extravagance. At this time, the technique of perfumery flourished in the Islamic world. By improving the distillation method, the scent of flowers was better preserved. With the advancement of trade, it was transported to China and became popular among aristocratic women in the Five Dynasties. It was given a beautiful name-"flower dew."

The art of decorating perfume bottles

However, did perfume really disappear from people's lives? Let's take a look at Tiziano's painting of a young Venetian girl holding her curly golden hair in one hand and a dim perfume bottle in the other. After the plague outbreak, people generally believed that perfume had magical antibiotic properties. Therefore, in the 15th century, the perfume manufacturing industry was revived. In 1882, the first perfume containing artificial fragrances was born, marking a milestone in the modernization of perfume. What about perfume bottles? Designers in this grand "decorative art" movement, who boasted a reverence for nature, brought their vision to life in their perfume bottle designs. Insects not only became decorations on the perfume bottle but also formed the shape of the bottle itself-just look at that instant capture of the butterfly spreading its wings.

"Utility is the essence of an object," but perfume bottles seem to be an exception to this viewpoint. Glass is fragile, with complex decorations and shapes that make it susceptible to breaking with a single touch. Users need to handle the clear and fragrant but easily evaporated liquid in the bottle with great care.

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