The art of Grasse perfumery is part of the French heritage and has just been inscribed on UNESCO’s intangible heritage. In Grasse, the International Museum of Perfumery has been honouring it since 1989. 20 years later, the space has given itself a second youth to offer visitors an ever more immersive and sensory experience.
"Created in 1989, this museum is part of the emblematic territory of the Pays de Grasse, cradle of the luxury perfumery of which France was the initiator. Dedicated to one of the most recognized traditional French activities, the Musée International de la Parfumerie, a public establishment labelled “Musée de France”, allows visitors to discover the history and originality of the profession of industrialists and the great perfumery houses," presents the MIP’s communication service.
In this establishment, the visitor sees himself going through the times. It all began in Antiquity. “The word perfume is attributed to an ancient origin. Perfume would mean”by smoke“, an element necessary for its primary use in sacred, medicinal or ritual fumigation,” explains the MIP.
It is therefore by this time that the initiation visit begins. A collection of objects mixing Egypt and Ancient Greece are on display.
“The history of odours makes no real distinction between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The secular uses of perfume are declining in the face of religious austerity,” says the MIP.
However, the crusades and the discovery of new regions of the world are an opportunity to discover new raw materials and therefore new smells.
The olfactory world took a real turn between the 17th and 18th centuries with real technical and scientific progress that made it possible to democratize perfumes and make them a real object of desire.
“We are seduced by clothes and perfume, which we change every day. The containers, always more sophisticated, become real jewels.”
The journey through time continues and focuses on the modern era.
The industrial revolution allowed for more massive production.
Little by little, perfume becomes a global object, used by everyone, whose juice is as precious as the box that holds it.
Finally, the visit ends nowadays, a time when perfumery is omnipresent and well anchored in our consumption habits.
Niche or more popular, scented waters are everywhere and respond well to consumers’ contemporary desires: something new all the time!
Safeguarding a heritage
The MIP’s ambition is not only to educate the public about the history of perfume, but also to guarantee this historic heritage of Grasse, which has long made France known throughout the world.
“Grasse wanted to be the first to create an International Perfumery Museum. The city presented an elaborate scientific project, served by a tenacious collective will to bring it to fruition. This establishment represents the living memory of a profession, but also of a Grasse specificity with a very strong identity character.”
Use your nose !
Whether you have Cleopatra’s or Cyrano de Bergerac’s nasal appendix, it is important to “play with your nostrils” at the PIM.
The place not only gives pride of place to history, but also to fragrances.
Olivier Quiquempoix, director of the Musées de Grasse, reveals that “installations have been set up to allow visitors to discover hundreds of different olfactory notes. From Damascus Rose to Tonka Bean to the most famous juices such as Hungarian Queen’s Water.”
But that’s not all, it is also possible to get lost in the alleys of the MIP garden.
On nearly 2.5 hectares extend jasmine, tuberose, geranium and other flowers and aromatic plants prized by perfumers.
"Thus, we introduce visitors from all over the world to the cultivation of perfume plants in the open field as it was in Grasse. It is one of the axes of the Gardens to exploit several parcels of these emblematic flowers of perfumery and the first link in the chain of this industry. Another garden area offers an olfactory journey, a discovery of plants and an invitation to discover their scents. Our objective is also to set up a conservatory of forgotten perfume plants. In this way, we will claim to become a botanical garden," argues Olivier Quiquempoix.
The MIP, always keen to arouse the interest of visitors, has therefore been given a new look.
Temporary exhibitions are also on offer, such as “The fabulous history of Eau de Cologne”, whose curator general is none other than Jean-Claude Elena, a former perfumer at Hermès.
To complete the experience, visitors can also take advantage of the picnic area to relax in the shade of the “century-old cypress trees”.
The MIP is not only the museum dedicated to the art of scents, it is the one of all the senses…
The MIP is open all year round and is located at 2 Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon, in Grasse, from 10am to 7pm from May to September, and from 10am to 5.30pm from October to April. The entrance fee is fixed at €6 in full price