Perfumers on Perfume : Paul Parquet

Ernest Beaux called Paul Parquet the “greatest perfumer of his time.” Coming from the legendary creator of Chanel No. 5, it’s very high praise, but Parquet (1856-1916) deserves it for his innovative work. Although most of his fragrances, like Le Parfum Idéal or Coeur de Jeannette, created for Houbigant, have not survived, his influence is profound. He is responsible for giving perfumery the fougère fragrance family, inspired by his marvelous Fougère Royale. His experiments with novel synthetics inspired many groundbreaking fragrances of the 19th and early 20th centuries such as Piver’s Le Trèfle Incarnat, Roger & Gallet Vera Violetta. Even Beaux himself was under the spell of Parquet’s creations.

Paul Parquetfougere royale

The start of Parquet’s career was in hosiery, rather than perfume. It was not until 1878 when his father bought a perfumery called Houbigant-Chardin (founded in 1775 by Jean-François Houbigant) that Parquet became interested in the business. In 1881, Parquet bought Houbigant-Chardin from his father, and over the course of the next three decades composed a fascinating and original collection*. His style was bold, dramatic, and daring, but also romantic.

His early death from cancer in 1916 put an end to a brilliant career. Ironically, Fougère Royale (1882), a fragrance that makes us remember Parquet today was not a commercial success early on, and it was only after Parquet’s death that it became a prominent part of Houbigant’s lineup. During his lifetime he was most admired for Le Parfum Idéal, “a masterpiece of fragrant equilibrium, harmonious and of good taste as shall never be surpassed,” according to his friend and associate Robert Bienaimé.

Parquet’s name also lives on in the Fondation Paul Parquet, a pediatric center to which he bequeathed his fortune. It’s located in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, which is also also home to several fragrance companies such as Clarins and International Flavors & Fragrances.

In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from A Great Figure of French Perfumery: Paul Parquet, a 1955 magazine article by Robert Bienaimé, himself a renowned perfumer and onetime technical director at Houbigant:

Houbigant-perfumes

“A keen worker of alert spirit, Paul Parquet focused principally upon the creation of perfumes, still to discover himself a born perfumer, unable to imagine the reputation he would acquire in the business.

Here lies a demonstrative example of that which is mysterious, inexplicable in the vocation and work of the perfumer. This work that is done independent of all scientific consideration, intuition, imagination, equilibrium and taste.

The perfumer is not necessarily a scientist, but is indisputably an artist who composes a bouquet of odorous notes, as the musician a symphony of musical notes.

Paul Parquet was a great artist.

I cannot forgot the sense of admiration felt for him, as much for the man as for the perfumer, by another great master of the art of Perfumery, François Coty, and which he expressed to me, after my mentor’s death, when I had occasion in 1916, during the war, to enter into contact with him.

Patiently, methodically, Paul Parquet worked. Starting from old, outmoded formulae, studying odorous reactions, assembling a palette of smells, already he created several works that displayed his personality.

He first reviewed the “Extraits Triples” and the “Essences Concentrées” that were the basis for the house’s formulae, then he modified them, completed them, making new, innovative compositions. Yet still these were but exercises on the path to mastery, as the pianist must practice his scales before attempting a concerto.

Having been among the first to understand the future role that would play in the art of perfume certain synthetic products that began to appear, he tried their use, then developed it, seeking to find personal notes, more characteristic perfumes, in employing new methods that technical progress and chemistry placed at his disposition. This is the period when appeared, notably, Royal Houbigant, Fougère Royale, Chypre Idéal.

Each new note marked a step forward in the evolution of his talent.

After more than fifteen years of work and perseverance, Paul Parquet finally created that harmonious masterpiece of balance, finesse and taste that was and remains the “Parfum Idéal”. This proved both a landmark in the history of French perfumery and a success, owing to two associates; for while Paul Parquet created the note of Le Parfum Idéal, Alfred Javal was the first to review the presentation of perfume, a notion that had been previously neglected, and so he decided to dress this “Parfum Idéal luxuriously, but with taste.

So it was that Le Parfum Idéal was presented in a bottle of Baccarat crystal, adorned with a superbly gilded label in relief, enclosed in a case inlaid with satin and upholstered in silk.

Perfume, bottle, box, each a revolution, a prodigious success across the entire world, placing the Parfumerie Houbigant alongside the leading French houses.

This occurred in 1900. Paul Parquet had mastered his trade. Truly he had become a Master Perfumer, and after Le Parfum Idéal came a succession of happy creations: Cœur de Jeannette, Mes Délices, La Rose France, L’Œillet du Roi, Royal Cyclamen, Royal Bouvardia, etc., presented with the same pursuit of originality, thanks to whose Renown the name of Houbigant would be brought to the four corners of the Earth.”

Bienaimé, Robert. “Une grande figure de la parfumerie française: Paul Parquet.” Industrie de la Parfumerie October 1955: 409-411. Print.

Translated from French by Will Inrig. Osmothèque, Versailles. 28 Jan. 2014.

*According to the Osmothèque, Parquet composed the following fragrances for Houbigant (** means that the conservatory holds a sample).

  • Le Royal Houbigant (date unknown)
  • Fougère Royale (1882)**
  • Le Chypre Idéal (date unknown)
  • Peau d’Espagne (1894)**
  • Parfum d’Argeville (1895)**
  • Jockey Club (1900)**
  • Le Parfum Idéal (1900)**
  • Royal Cyclamen (1900)**
  • Mes Délices (1904)
  • Royal Bouvardia (1904)
  • L’Œillet du Roy (1906)**
  • Violette Pourpre (1907)
  • Rose de France (1911)**
  • Cœur de Jeannette (1912)**

Image: Paul Parquet, via the Osmothèque.

Osmothèque, the International Perfume Conservatory and Museum
36 rue du Parc de Clagny
78100 Versailles, France
Tel : 01.39.55.46.99
email: osmotheque at wanadoo dot fr
www.osmotheque.fr (click on the Conférences et Visites tab)

Enjoyed this? Get blog posts via email:

Or, stay updated via:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS

52 Comments

  • Cornelia Blimber: Patiently, methodically and open minded, with great intuition for the future developments. That’s the one to create Le Parfum Idéal!
    I am so happy to have one of his creations, Pompeïa, in a big bottle of lotion. Maybe in a modern version? but still, there always remains something of the old spirit. Anyway, it is fantastic.

    Thank you again for this marvellous series! February 18, 2014 at 7:29am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: On second reading, Pompeia was only inspired, not created by Parquet. Never mind, great inspiration! February 18, 2014 at 7:38am Reply

      • James: What does Pompeia smell like? I love that name. February 18, 2014 at 8:00am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: Spicy, flowery (carnation?), maybe a hint of patchouli. In the vein of eau de toilette Maja, vintage (the current one is nothing at all). February 18, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

          • Victoria: I love Maja soap, which has such an exotic scent and lasts for ages. Unfortunately, I don’t think that it’s still produced in the same fragrance. February 18, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

      • Victoria: I smelled Piver’s Pompeia recently, and I loved its spicy flowers. Do you still find it at the stores? February 18, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: I will look into the barbershop where I saw Rêve d’Or!
          Skins in Amsterdam carries Cuir de Piver, maybe they can order Pompeïa as well? February 18, 2014 at 12:21pm Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you, Cornelia. Please let me know if the store carries it. I realized when I started looking for Piver perfumes is that some retailers carry only a certain selection. On the other hand, Pompeia seems to be available cheaply on amazon.com. February 18, 2014 at 2:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: The story of his life is so fascinating, especially with the start in a completely different field. How amazing that he found his call with perfumery and today we have to thank Parquet for inspiring so many fragrances. February 18, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

    • Patricia K: I thought I was the only one who wears Pompeia. Mine is in a square splash bottle and I paid $14 for it. February 18, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: I have the same bottle, payed € 11 some years ago. February 18, 2014 at 12:18pm Reply

        • Patricia K: I also like Heliotrope Blanc. When I wear it, I imagine pearls, champagne and ball gowns. February 18, 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

          • Victoria: Mmmm, sounds very Belle Epoque to me. :) February 18, 2014 at 2:22pm Reply

  • James: Thank you for this series! I read all articles with great interest and started a folder on perfumers in my bookmarks. February 18, 2014 at 7:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m very happy that you’re enjoying it! :) February 18, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

  • Connie: What I find really refreshing about this is that he didn’t release five perfumes every year. Nice job sir. February 18, 2014 at 8:22am Reply

    • Victoria: So true! Some other perfumers of his time were much more prolific, but at least, we have records only of those several fragrances that he made. It’s still a very impressive list. February 18, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

  • Lydie: I love these articles! Is Fougere Royale today anything like Parquet’s original? February 18, 2014 at 8:37am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s only inspired by it, but while an excellent perfume, it’s quite different. You can’t use many of the materials that Parquet used in Fougere Royale, and the fougere style itself has evolved to be less sweet and lighter. On the other hand, if you like classical green, mossy perfumes, it’s worth trying. There is also a parfum version available. February 18, 2014 at 11:50am Reply

    • Jonathan: Lydie, try it! Great stuff! February 20, 2014 at 2:54am Reply

  • Patricia K: Thank you for another great post. I would love all of them in a book (hint, hint). February 18, 2014 at 12:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! Glad that you like it. It’s interesting to highlight the work of the perfumers who are not as well-known outside of the professional circle, and yet whose creations have inspired so many contemporary fragrances. February 18, 2014 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Liz: I wonder what his Chypre Ideal smelled like.

    Thank you, Victoria and the Osmotheque. I’m learning a lot from this feature. February 18, 2014 at 12:26pm Reply

    • Kylie: Or Royal Cyclamen? Victoria, have you tried it? I see the Osmotheque has it. February 18, 2014 at 1:17pm Reply

      • Victoria: I haven’t tried Royal Cyclamen, and I wonder what ingredients he used to create the green floral effect. February 18, 2014 at 2:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I would love to know that too! Those names alone make me want to try the perfumes.

      Glad that you find the series interesting, and thank you for letting me know. February 18, 2014 at 2:21pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: Thanks so much for this series! Osmotheque is such a gem and I’m so happy they preserve all of these important little pieces of history.

    I think that I’m with Patricia on this one. Could make a great book… :-) February 18, 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: They’re doing what they can to preserve the perfume treasures we have, and it’s really the effort of a group of passionate individuals. Very grateful for a look inside their archives, especially when it comes to these articles. February 18, 2014 at 2:26pm Reply

  • sandra: I like that he started out in hoisery, and changed his career to perfumery. I think so many people can be afraid to change courses in their life. Everyone seems to benefit when someone is doing something they truely enjoy! I have smelled Fougère Royale, though it was not for me, it smelled very beautiful. Thanks for posting this.
    On a side note, I finally got around to watching Mughal-e-Azam. The whole time I was thinking this film will have a happy ending…Thanks Victoria for the recommendation. February 18, 2014 at 2:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s the part I enjoyed very much, probably because I myself made a big change at one point, when I realized that my heart was with perfumery and everything revolving around scents. Changes are always hard, but as you say, the happiness of doing something that is enjoyable and meaningful can’t be quantified.

      Oh, Sandra, every time I watch Mughal-e-Azam, I keep thinking that there will be a happy ending. It’s heartbreaking, but at the same time, the lack of happy ending and the slight ambiguity makes the film so much more powerful. Same with my other favorite, Umrao Jaan. February 18, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Apart from the lovely post which I’ve read though not with my customary attention, ( I’m afraid the speed skating is rather getting to me!) I just love those perfume names. “Mes délices” and “Coeur de Jeanette” especially. Thanks for posting this series! February 18, 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: The names are everything I love about the perfumes from this period. Like Parfums de Rosine’s names when it was still under the auspices of Poiret–Le Fruit Defendue, Nuit de Chine, etc.

      We’re finding it hard to tune into the Olympics, and I keep watching the choice bits on Youtube. February 18, 2014 at 2:57pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Well, I normally never watch sports much, but it’s hard to escape the euphoria around the speed skating in the Netherlands at the moment. Even more so since part of my family is originally from the area that has given us most of our very best skaters.

        Those Rosine names are wonderful, aren’t they? Another of my top favourite perfume names is still “Le parfum de Thérèse”, which is like the title of a great love poem.

        I too liked the fact that Parquet changed “tracks” as it were, in his life. It takes a lot of courage, and isn’t easy at all. February 18, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: I can relate to what you’re describing, but the lack of TV time is cutting into my sports enjoyment. On the other hand, whenever I talk to my mom, it’s nothing but the Olympics (and the complaints about the incessant snow in the US). On the other hand, I was totally mesmerized by Yulia Lipnitskaya’s skating. Incredible!

          Another perfumer who changed tracks was Pierre Bourdon, who originally studied political science. Imagine that he could have taught polisci at some university instead of creating Davidoff Cool Water or Frederic Malle Iris Poudre. February 18, 2014 at 3:12pm Reply

          • Austenfan: I’d rather have Iris Poudre, I think. Sciences Po is quite a thing in France.

            (And if I were Ukrainian I would be more concerned about other things than the Olympics…) February 19, 2014 at 3:38pm Reply

            • Victoria: (Of course, we are, but it didn’t seem right for me to mention it casually as we chat about perfume. That topic is very painful. I don’t even know how to discuss it without getting emotional and angry, and a perfume blog is probably not the best place for venting these feelings.) February 19, 2014 at 4:08pm Reply

              • Austenfan: Well I was hesitant to bring it up, feel free to remove my comment. February 20, 2014 at 6:51am Reply

                • Victoria: I really thank you for thinking about it and for caring! That’s very important. February 20, 2014 at 6:57am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: I’d like to thank Victoria, Will and Osmothèque for this amazing treat once again. Like Sandra, I was surprised that he started his career in hosiery, not in perfumery. I’m sure he must have studied and worked very hard but he must have had natural talent to be able to create masterpieces only within a few years from his career change.

    I always wanted to smell the original Fougère Royale but I’m also very curious about Le Parfum Idéal (what a name!) after reading this article. I’m so excited that I keep finding the music-perfume connections in this series. Beaux and Roubert talked about their favourite composers and here, Bienaimé is using a lot of music analogy. February 18, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: I forgot to add, but as Will and I exchanged notes on Parquet, we discovered that both of us smelled scented ferns. And that those ferns smells like hay and almonds, a bit like coumarin. So, maybe when Parquet created Fougere Royale (Royal Fern), he didn’t try to weave a fantasy but worked based on his observations.

      The musical references are so interesting, and you’re right, every article I’ve posted so far mentioned them in one context or another. February 18, 2014 at 4:55pm Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for mentioning this interesting fact. I always thought that Parquet used a fantasy accord to create Fougère Royale. I should try to smell some real ferns then! :-) I’m attracted to the idea of fern fragrances because it makes me imagine enchanted forests. One of the first deodorants I used as a middle school student was called Forest Fern from Marks & Spencer (does anyone remember it?). It was such an intriguing scent I would love to smell it again. February 18, 2014 at 5:43pm Reply

        • Victoria: There is something so primeval about ferns, and I can see why you think of an enchanted forest. In Ukrainian folklore a fern flower is a potent source of magic. February 19, 2014 at 2:27am Reply

  • henry: Well researched and well written — thanx! February 18, 2014 at 3:37pm Reply

  • jtd: Fascinating! Thank you so much for this bit of history on Paul Parquet. I’ve been looking at the the fougere genre lately, a genre that owes its existence to Mr. Parque, so reading your post is a thrill. Interesting to think that in his day he was known for his other perfumes more than for Fougere Royale. Get me to l’Osmoteque! Thanks again. February 18, 2014 at 8:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: The perfumers are such an interesting lot in general. I wish I could smell some of his other perfumes. Fougere Royale in its original form smells surprisingly modern. February 19, 2014 at 2:33am Reply

  • Rednails: What a delightful profile! Did you know that some Houbigant perfume brands that were ultimately sold to Dana, such as Raffinee, were briefly manufactured by Parfums Parquet? I have no idea whether the outfit still exists, but it sounds as if it might have been named for the famous perfumer. February 18, 2014 at 9:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like it! Houbigant has had some big ups and downs over the years, but they’ve spruced up at some point. At one point, I heard that they were going to relaunch more perfumes, but this project never materialized. February 19, 2014 at 2:38am Reply

  • solanace: Thank you again for this wonderful series, Victoria! February 19, 2014 at 4:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy to hear it! :) February 19, 2014 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Jonathan: Thank you for posting, Will for translating and the Osmotheque for sharing. I wear Fougere Royale, the new one, and if I could smell one vintage at the O, it would be it. February 20, 2014 at 2:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember Luca Turin writing that the first (or one of the first) perfume he smelled at the Osmotheque was Fougere Royale and how must it impressed him. There is definitely something poignant about getting a glimpse of another era through fragrance. February 20, 2014 at 4:21am Reply

What do you think?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2014 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved.