|"To Be" by Police - a Mavive fragrance|
|Spices in the window of Antica Drogheria Mascari - Ruga degli Spezieri (Street of the Spice-makers)|
The creation of perfumes and cosmetics was considered an art performed by Venetian spezieri, or spice-makers, who, according to Giancarlo Ottolini, were "part alchemists and part physicians who had a sound knowledge of chemistry, herbal medicine and the numerous ingredients (and their properties) that were available at the time" -- the spezieri knew how to take a dash of iris, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon and mix it with some lavender, citrus, orange and jasmine in order to create things like perfumes, anti-aging creams and mouthwash.
|Pino Silvestre - Mavive|
"The reprint of Secreti Nobilissimi dell'Arte Profumatoria coincides with the 25th anniversary of Mavive and with the 112 years of the Vidal family's involvement in the perfumery industry: Secreti Nobilisimi is a testament to the values that have inspired the history of cosmetics since its inception. For four generations, my family has honoured these values and continues with great passion and devotion the tradition of the art of perfumery.
|Pal Zileri - Mavive|
In Technical Notes on the Formulae in Secreti Nobilissimi, Giancarlo Ottolini writes:
In the mid 16th Century, when this book was published, the Republic of Venice was at the peak of its power, beauty and splendour; a city rich in political expertise, treasures and artistic masterpieces. ...Textiles, glass, metals and especially spices were the main products traded in the dynamic Rialto Market, where the presence of merchants from various European and Oriental provinces guaranteed commercial opportunities that were not available elsewhere.
...Venetian women took great care in making their faces fair-skinned, in the bright colouring of their hair and lips, and in the appearance of their teeth; they used mouthwashes, removed their body-hair, applied make-up to their eyes, and were particularly fond of perfumes.
...It is worth noting that, in 1488, the Republic of Venice already protected and defined as an art the work and products of the saoneri (soap makers), an activity that later became increasingly widespread within the personal care, perfumery and cosmetics fields. In the 16th Century, about forty soap manufacturers were operating in Venice with a total production estimated at around seven-eight thousand tons per year.
|Photo: Venezia Ti Amo|
Back to Secreti Nobilissimi. In a section titled, Published Secrets: An Oxymoron, Anna Messinis writes:
Venice is one of the cities that revived the perfume culture in the West: its trade with the East enabled it to import important raw materials along with the technical knowledge needed to use them. The analysis of the substances cited by Rosetti gives an idea of how many of the raw materials were of oriental origin, a number of which were already mentioned in The Travels of Marco Polo. ...Marco Polo gives precise directives on extracting the musk from the deer as well as a description of the animal itself.
One ingredient that Rosetti, the author of Noble Secrets, lists in 36 recipes is called ambracan, which is a bilious secretion made from the intestines of sperm whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Now, just where do you get whale bile? Anna Messinis writes: "As Marco Polo noted, in describing the island of Madagascar, it could be found floating upon the sea and in the sand along the coasts of Somalia, Madagascar, and Japan, as well as being extracted from the abdomens of dead cetaceans."
In the 16th Century, Venice was the Italian capital of the publishing industry, and self-improvement was all the rage. Books were printed containing tips on how to obtain snow-white teeth, how to achieve a face without blemishes, how to get rid of freckles, how to make the face fair and splendid, and how to dye one's hair blond, an activity that made Venetian women renown the world over. For the men, there was a recipe on how to dye one's hair and beard black. Toothpastes and mouthwashes, anti-aging products and sun-blocks, Venetians have been consumed with maintaining a bella figura for centuries.Venetian descendants even created Eau de Cologne itself!
Messinis continues: "Between the 17th and 18th Century, the art of perfumery spread from Venice to the rest of Europe, particularly France and Germany. Throughout this region there is ample evidence in the sciences, arts, and crafts of the Venetian influence. It is not by accident that in 1709, Giovanni Maria Farina and his brother, Giovanni Battista -- grandsons of the Venetian perfumer, Caterina Gennari -- created Eau de Cologne. As this book clearly shows, history informs us that Venice continued to be a fundamental reference point for culture and knowledge, which included the art of perfumery, a veritable crossroad for commercial interests and trade that still echoes down to this day."
|1920s Eau de Cologne Bruno Storp|
Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo
e Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto e del Costume
Santa Croce, 1992
ATTENTION: THE MUSEUM AT PALAZZO MOCENIGO WILL BE CLOSED FOR RESTORATION FROM JANUARY 15, 2013 UNTIL MAY 2013.
Ciao from Venezia,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog