Grasse, as it is commonly called, is a town and commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Alpes-Maritimes department. Known for its perfume industry and even considered the perfume capital of the world. In the vicinity of Grasse, herbs and flowers are grown, which are considered the best perfume raw materials in the world.
History of Grasse, very briefly
Back in the era of the Roman Empire, there was a prosperous economy in Grasse, and in the villages, peasants grew grain and fruits. A thousand years ago, at this intersection of mountain roads leading to the sea, a real city appeared, which in the 12th century entered into an alliance with Genoa, securing its independence from both local lords and the Bishop of Antibes.
In the XIII century, the city with all of Provence came under the control of the Count of Provence, and in the XV century. together with all of Provence – under the rule of the French crown of Louis XI, while receiving some benefits and privileges.
In the 16th century, Grasse was “hooked” by religious wars, and in the 18th century by the “Austrian inheritance”.
During the years of the revolution, the local CheKa* named after Comrade Robespierre worked in Grasse, and dozens of heads cut off by the guillotine flew. Revolutionary terror is the same in all countries.
In 1860, the county of Nice joined France and everything calmed down until the end of the Second World War, when the local underground and the Resistance finally stirred here, but so secretly that many did not even notice it.
Local main attractions.
In the Middle Ages, Grasse was located at a busy crossroads of trade routes, so the entire historical center of Grasse still retains the features of a medieval city in a half-Italian, half-French style. Since the 15th century, the center of the city has been the Flower Market Square or Lakes Square (aux Air). Previously, a large canal passed through it, supplying water to the city and its main artisans – leather tanners. The water, after dumping production waste into it, exuded stench and by the 18th century. the canal was driven under the pavement and arcades typical of the Mediterranean appeared around it. An architectural monument of the 18th century on the square is the beautiful mansion of Maximin Ignard (house N33), a wealthy leather merchant. His son became a famous Girondin and a member of the Convention.
Near Lake Square there is a 17th century church. Oratoire with a Gothic portal surrounded by old houses of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Mansions and palaces of the 17th and 18th centuries, ancient chapels and a cathedral with paintings by Rubens and Fragonard. A native of the Grasse family of famous perfumers, the famous painter Fragonard in Grasse is dedicated to a special museum.
World capital of perfumery
From the production of leather craft, the current industry gradually emerged, glorifying Grasse – perfumery. The tanners received their raw materials both from cattle breeders in the mountains and from ships from the port of Marseille. Various herbs grew in these places, which were used for tanning. From the middle of the XVII century. a whole prestigious direction of local tanners was formed – the workshop of glovemakers, which since the beginning of the 17th century. called “perfumers”. Adopting the Italian Renaissance fashion, they produced scented, perfumed gloves. After such “symbols of social belonging” went out of fashion, elite glove makers became perfumers, which was greatly facilitated by the surrounding meadows, fields and mountain slopes with fragrant flowers and herbs. This is how the world-famous Grasse perfumery appeared. Grasse is home to the most famous perfume factories in France. Now Grasse supplies France and the whole world not only perfumes, but also semi-finished products and raw materials for the most famous brands of the perfume industry.
The Fragonard perfume house (Maison Fragonard) was founded in the first half of the 20th century, in the small town of Grasse, which is located on the Côte d’Azur, not far from Cannes. This was due to the fact that shortly after the First World War, Eugène Fuchs, a businessman by nature and already fascinated by the magic of perfumery, decided to establish his own business on a completely new concept – the direct sale of perfumery products to tourists. And so the Fragonard Perfume House appeared, which received its name in honor of the famous artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), who was born in Grasse. This choice marked Eugène Fuchs’s commitment to instilling traditional values in his business, and stemmed from his desire to pay homage to the city that welcomed him and his family, and to the sophistication of 18th century art. The first fragrance released at this factory was called “Moment of flight” (Moment volé).
The spirit of the house was faithfully maintained by the three generations that followed Eugène at the head of the family business. New production and sales divisions were born in Grasse, Eze and Paris. Jean-Francois Costa, the grandson of the founder of the factory and an ardent admirer of art, took on the task of modernizing the firm.
Being a great admirer of art, he began to collect his collections relating to the history of perfumery in the seventies and launched the first perfumery museums in Grasse and Paris. This initiative contributed to the even greater prosperity of Fragonard and his cultural development.
Now the Fragonard perfume house is run by the granddaughters of the founder – Anne, Agnès and Françoise – and, judging by the number of visitors and queues at the cashier, their business is booming. Like previous generations, they strive to make their mark on the company and adapt to modern lifestyles. Currently, Fragonard includes three factories, six museums and twenty stores in different cities of France.
Museum of Perfumes and the History of Perfume Production
Not far from the perfume factory is a historical museum. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the collection includes equipment with which perfumes were created at the beginning of the last century. In addition, in the museum you can see the paintings of Jean Fragonard, which found their place in an exquisite mansion of the 18th century. Here the artist lived and worked in the post-revolutionary years. The museum also houses a collection of paintings by two other famous Grasse artists: Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837) and Jean-Baptiste Mallet (1759-1835). This collection is the second French collection of works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard after the Louvre and the first for two other artists.
A visit to the factory and the museum is free, it offers tours in all European languages, including English. In addition, throughout the year, the perfume house holds a program of various events: a perfumer’s apprentice workshop, expert tours, olfactory talks, etc.
For example, guests of the factory are invited to attend an amazing master class “Perfume Workshop”, which includes a tour of the factory, a seminar with a teacher, where you can get both historical and practical information about the creation of perfumery, as well as create, together with the teacher, “your own » flavor with 9 essences, depending on your taste.
Opening hours: The museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed every Sunday in November, January and early February. The factory is open daily, on Sundays and holidays from 9:00 to 18:30. The last visit is 1 hour before closing.
The store has a system of discounts when buying several fragrances. Therefore, many visitors combine their purchases into one common one and end up with a good discount. In addition to perfumes, the store also presents related products: shower gels, body lotions, perfumed candles, sachets with aromatic herbs and much more.
Interesting facts – World War I and Grasse
Excellent coastal climate, clean mountain air, sun and sea, excellent medical care and professional doctors – all this attracted the attention of World War I veterans who were injured and shell-shocked on the battlefields. In addition to veterans of the French army, the officers and generals of the allied armies, especially Russia, also rested and lived here. The Bolsheviks, who seized power in Russia in 1917, considered the officers of the Tsarist army to be enemies, killed them and imprisoned them. Some managed to escape and go to France, becoming the political emigrants. One of these officers, Ivan Orel (Eagle) lived at Mont-Fleuri O.R.S.A.C. and died in Grasse in 1956, buried in the local cemetery. In our own archive we have his letters to a friend in Paris, in which he gives the most excellent reviews of the local climate and the medical care. A participant of the First World War, who lost his motherland, he felt at home in Grasse. Repressions in Russia affected the famous artists, painters, writers, some of whom lived in exile in Grasse. Among them are Ivan Bunin, Zinaida Gippus, Merezhkovsky, Stepun, Shmelev, Sorin, Rachmaninoff. The highest persons, members of the Russian Royal Family. In the 1930s, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Milica Nikolaevna, the august member of the Union of the Life Guards of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, lived here.