I've just finished reading this marvelous book and what an eye opener it has been. I thought I knew a fair bit about the general history of perfume, but Michael Edward's masterpiece has brought home to me the true artistry of the perfumer and how it evolved over the 20th century.
I plan to write in more detail about this book, but one thing that really stands out for me is what passion drove these perfumers and very often the fragrance house founders to create and commission masterpiece perfumes. It's all here - L'Origan, Coty, Jicky, L'Heure Bleu, Mitsouko, Joy, Chamade, Femme de Rochas, No 5 and 19, Diorling, Miss Dior, Diorissimo, Angel. You name it. Then the perfumers and founders - Jacque and Jean-Paul Guerlain, Coco Chanel, Edmond Roudnitska, Jean-Claude Elena, Marcel Rochas, Christian Dior, Guy Robert, Maurice Roucel. I could go on.
The thing that struck me most is that none of these people saw perfumery as just business. There was a passion and vision driven not by sales numbers but by a spirit of true artistry.
One of the most touching stories in the book for me concerns Edmond Roudnitska and the work he did with Christian Dior. When creating Diorissimo, with its beautiful interpretation of Lily of the Valley, Edmond Roudnitska had no idea the love Christian Dior had for the flower. Dior was so superstitious that whenever he had a new collection to show, he always went out with a sprig of Lily of the Valley tucked in his pocket. When he died, Roudnitska attended the funeral and was flabbergasted to see Dior's coffin covered in the white flower. When he had presented Diorissimo to Dior, Christian had simply said that he liked Lily of the Valley, without going into any detail. Roudnitska choked up when he saw Dior's coffin and was overwhelmed with emotion.