Glass alabastrons (perfume bottles) from timeless Greece, during the so late 6th–5th century BCE. This are. Core-formed glass vessels. (Photo: The city Museum of Art, public domain)

The background of scent is mainly ephemeral. ~ all, the aromas of pressed lilies from the Nile banks or the priceless ambergris, as soon as worth an ext than gold, are difficult to imagine if you"ve never ever smelled this rarities.

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While the odor of these fragile perfume ingredient vanishes through time, numerous examples that exquisite perfume bottles and containers remain to remind us of the background of the most-neglected sense. From old Egypt to modern Paris, the background of perfume party is entwined through the background of glassmaking, also as more comprehensive artistic movements and each culture"s details uses the perfumes.

Read on come learn more about the artistic history of perfume bottles.

You might be surprised at the long background of perfume bottles. Scroll under to learn more about the artistic history of this vessels.

Ancient beginnings of intended Scents


Ancient Egyptian perfume bottles. Left: A faience vessel in the form of a monkey. This days to the brand-new Kingdom, circa 1550–1295 BCE | Right: A travertine perfume vessel with the figure of a princess inlaid. The vessel dates to the new Kingdom, Amarna Period, circa 1353–1336 BCE (Photos: The metropolitan Museum the Art, public domain)

While the deliberate usage of scents has actually existed for many thousands that years, few of the earliest distilled and also mixed perfumes appeared in ancient Mesopotamia, India, and also China. Of the surviving purpose-made vessels for perfume, old Egyptian examples date back to at least the middle Kingdom.

The Egyptians had actually both religious and cosmetic offers for perfumes. These perfumes were famous around the ancient Mediterranean and also exported as part of local trade. Common ingredients had lilies, cardamom, cinnamon, and also myrrh.

Ancient Egyptian perfume bottles were delicate and beautifully crafted together symbolic vessels for the rich to save with their an individual cosmetics. This vessels might be sculpted from stones such as travertine marble or molded indigenous faience (a kind of ceramic used in deluxe items). Vivid glass was an additional material commonly used for cosmetic and also perfume vessels in old Egypt. They were crafted via a procedure called core-forming, in which a soft kind is dipped in molten glass at the finish of a rod. As soon as the glass hardens in the form of the form, the soft interior form is scraped out to develop a hollow vessel.


Faience aryballos (perfume bottles) from the sixth century BCE, Rhodes. (Photo: © The Trustees the the brother Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

This old glassmaking process developed in Mesopotamia and spread westward to Egypt. The artist of 18th empire Egypt (the period from 1549 come 1292 BCE) to be renowned for their exquisite core-form works, often featuring striped trends in well-off colors. This layout of glassmaking spread out to timeless Greece. Recognized as alabastrons, this perfume bottles can be shaped choose vials or like amphorae. Faience and terra-cotta were additionally used in old Greece. Exquisite shapes from shells come birds display the range of vessels easily accessible for those who could afford luxurious scents and also fine craftsmanship.

The invention of blow Glass


Two roman blown glass perfume bottles, both native the 1st century CE. The left attributes a white follow of wound glass, the ideal is a solitary color example. (Photos: The urban Museum of Art, publicly domain)

The core-formed courage was at some point phased out by the innovation of blow glass. Syrian artists developed the process around the first century BCE. Indigenous there, like core-forming, the technology spread come the rapidly widening Roman Empire. By most accounts, upper-class Romans to be perfume-enthusiasts, anointing from their hair to your feet. This fashion for scents was regarded by part as a moral failing. Pliny the Elder wrote, “Perfumes offer the function of the many superfluous the all forms of luxury; for pearls and also jewels do nonetheless pass to the wearer’s heir, and clothes critical for part time, yet ingredients lose their scent at once, and also die in the an extremely hour once they room used… All that money is paid because that a pleasure enjoyed by who else, because that a person carrying scent about himself does not smell that himself.”

Whether a moral failing of the Romans or not, a fashion because that perfumes required large-scale production of perfume bottles. Swollen glass opened a new art form. Much more translucent and faster to produce than core-formed or cast glass, glassblowing encouraged a promptly growing, ever-creative industry within the Empire. The Romans offered glass because that tableware, jewelry, and also of course cosmetic containers. Besides the beauty beauty of these blown glass perfume bottles, they to be non-porous and relatively affordable.

Late Medieval and also Renaissance Luxury


A miniature perfume sprinkler to it is in worn top top the person. This instance from so late 13th or early 14th century Egypt dead the Fesse Emblem, a note of the Mamluk sultan. (Photo: The urban Museum the Art, publicly domain)

After the fall of Rome, Europe entered the duration often referred to as the Dark Ages. While rather of a misnomer, a the majority of scientific expertise was neglected and also would only be reinvigorated in the later on Renaissance. However, the famed Persian philosopher, astronomer, and also physician Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna, lived 980-1037 CE) developed and publicized a process for distilling floral vital oils. This procedure was an improvement on enlarge perfumes, in i beg your pardon ingredients were crushed and mixed with oil. A sports of the distillation procedure articulated through Ibn Sina had likewise been in usage in ancient India likely since about 3000 BCE.

While the Indian and also Persian perfume traditions ongoing to flourish, it would not be until the campaigns that European interest in crafting perfume was reignited. Both military and trade voyages to the holy Land presented Europeans come the attars (botanical essential oils), particularly a signature distillation that roses. Castle were additionally re-exposed to animal-based scents such together musk (secretion comes from the musk deer), civet (from the civet), and ambergris (discharge indigenous sperm whales).

The manufacturing of perfumes in Europe took organize in the late center Ages. Guilds the perfumers were created to prosper (and protect) the budding industry, i m sorry was carefully nourished by royals and also their courts. In the so late 14th century, Hungarian court perfumers make Hungary Water, a perfume that combined the traditional aromatic oils with alcohol. The alcohol-based perfume to be perfected by the Italians in the 14th century, the fluid aqua mirabilis (marvelous water) was a powerful scented concoction. The have to bottle these luxurious perfumes corresponded with the growing Venetian glass industry.


Left: so late 16th-century perfume sprinkler indigenous Venice. | Right: A small scent bottle supposed to be worn as a pendant, that agate, gold, and gemstones. This 17th-century party was included to in later on years. (Photos: © The Trustees the the brother Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

During the late medieval and Renaissance period, hard perfumes were housed in pomanders and worn top top the body, while fluid perfumes were housed in exquisite vials. Venice ended up being known for developing delicate, thin glass vessels in a style known as cristallo (meaning clear glass). This façon de Venise spread around Europe throughout the Renaissance, together both perfumery and also glassmaking acquired in popularity. In the 16th century, the Italian noblewoman Catherine de Medici ended up being Queen of France, pass her personal perfumer René the Florentine v her. She collection a court fashion that perfumes laden v civet and musk, stimulating French production.

The perfume party of the late medieval and Renaissance duration demonstrate a reinvigorated luxury and also the ever-evolving approaches of artisans. The perfume sprinkler (above) would have been used to scent a room, and it demonstrates a standard Venetian cane-working technique. Perfume bottles could additionally be lot smaller—and prefer the pomander—worn ~ above the person. The fragrant of the nobility were frequently lavishly housed, such as the example in carved agate and gold collection with rubies. These an individual perfumes were handy in a people where shower and an individual hygiene were no up to modern standards.

Rococo and Romantic

Left: Earthenware English odor bottle, created between 1770–1800. | Right: Porcelain and also gold Viennese scent bottle, circa 1730. (Photos: The metropolitan Museum that Art, public domain)

European perfume bottles of the 18th century were heavily influenced by the fashions and artistic motions of the day. Make in glass, porcelain, or also white glass masquerading as porcelain, odor bottles were no longer the sole provision that the fabulously wealthy. Global trade and also the increase of a europe middle course interested in luxury items meant the commercially-produced perfumes were much more widely obtainable to those v disposable income. Borrowing native Neoclassical styles, the scrolls and also gilding the Rococo design, and the Romantic pastoral scenes, perfume bottles adhered to the artists patterns of both painters and the decorative arts. Manufacturing of perfume vessels was additionally no longer exclusive to Italy; fine examples might be uncovered in London, Vienna, and also other cities.

American Artistry


Left: American Parian porcelain perfume bottle, circa 1830–70. (Photo: The urban Museum of Art, public domain) | Right: American blown flint glass perfume or toilet party crafted through Henry william Stiegel, circa 1767–84. (Photo: The Yale college Art Gallery, windy domain)

Glasswork came to the American colonies quite early; the very first workshop was created at jamestown in 1608. Domestic production would certainly not enhance imports till the late 18th century. In the 19th century, mass manufacturing was increasingly feasible due come the development of the commercial Revolution.

For perfume bottles, Neoclassical draft were well-known in Europe, yet American consumer were also developing their own unique tastes. This trended towards ornate decoration and cut or molded glass. Jewelers such as Louis lull Tiffany created luxury works of arts for the many affluent consumers, such together this perfume bottle reduced of agate and decorated with gold and also sapphires in an art Nouveau style.

Modern Art and also Commerce


Glass and also gilt perfume bottle by Louis comfort Tiffany, circa 1900. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

In the 20th century, some of the most renowned names in glass and also perfume created reputations that host to this day. French jeweler René Lalique came to be known for his frosted glass perfume bottles. Numerous 20th-century perfume bottles featured an atomizer, a late 19th-century invention that produce a well spray indigenous a liquid. While perfume brands had actually name acknowledgment in the 19th century, the bottles and brands came to be identifiable as component of a bigger fashion milieu. The perfect example is Chanel No. 5, a fragrance introduced in 1921 by designer chocolate Chanel.


Photo: stock Photos native SAVVAPANF PHOTO/Shutterstock

Based ~ above a 1924 design, the Chanel No. 5 was purposefully an easy in reaction come the cut-glass works of the likes the Lalique. The was, and also still is, clear; the amber-colored fluid is on complete display. Through the 1930s, smaller sizes were available for the ease of the modern-day woman ~ above the go. The perfume and also its signature bottle remain iconic, from being name-dropped through Marilyn Monroe to cameos in music text today.

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Perfume bottles this particular day are greatly branded, uneven the greatly anonymous pieces of ancient times. However, with careful product design, the perfume bottle remains a work of art.

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Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer in ~ My modern Met and a chronicler of early contemporary Britain & the Atlantic world. She hold a BA in history and mathematics from Brown University and an MA in european & Russian research studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums because that years with a specific focus top top photography and arts education. When she no writing, she enjoys hiking, movie photography, and also reading while cuddling v her cat Georgia.