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A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer
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A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  162 ratings  ·  16 reviews
This book offers a new look at the world of Marie Antoinette through the story of her personal and exclusive perfumer, Jean-Louis Fargeon. Jean-Louis served Marie for fourteen years until 1789 when the Revolution swept across France, its wrath aimed at the extravagances of the Royal Court and those who served it. Fargeon, a lifelong supporter of the Republican cause but a ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by I. B. Tauris (first published 2004)
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The book, as the title suggests, is not really an account of the historical events of this time or a detailed account of Marie Antoinette’s life (for the latter, I’d recommend Zweig’s or Frazier’s books). Based on Jean-Louis Fargeon’s—a perfumer for the court—biography, it offers a look at the fashion industry and the people who actually created the glamor surrounding the Queen. Perfumery was already well established in France, and even philosophers at the time acknowledged the importance of our ...more
Such an interesting book, especially the appendices at the back, listing Fargeon's own notes about different scent-giving ingredients and the methods of capturing their scents. I was slightly disappointed by the limited footnoting, which didn't give much information about the quotes that were footnoted! It also wasn't very clear where so much of the information about Fargeon's thoughts came from- they were written of as plain facts with no references. That he wrote letters to his brother was m ...more
I was debating 3 1/2 to 4 stars. It was an interesting book, but not quite of the traditional biographical vein. I had been expecting to learn about the perfumer rather than read about his passion, but I cannot say that I did not enjoy myself.

It was nice to have a closer look at Marie Antoinette. But other than the usual fare about her majesty (her dresses, the lesbian rumors, her 'affair' with Count Axel de Fersen, the Affair of the Neckless), there isn't anything new to read about. Fargeon li
Max Renn
An admirable attempt to reframe the french revolution from the perspective of one specific and actual everyman, this one of the bourgeois artisanal class.

Unfortunately much of this relatively slender volume is taken up with history better covered elsewhere. Anecdotes regarding Marie Antoinette are par for the course and provide no real insight there. What saves this book (and elevates it to 4 stars) is the particulars regarding the art of perfumery as practiced in this time. Descriptions of pro
I read this book based on a review in Judith Thurman's "Cleopatra's Nose." The subtitle suggests much more intrigue than the book offers, and suggest that the subject, the perfumer Fargeon, plays a much larger role. In truth this book is a solid and quick overview of the summtuary habits at Versailles with Fargeon as a kind of literary device that the author relates back to. It is an interesting angle to the history of the Queen of France and the revolution, and the author makes much of Fargeon' ...more
Louise Culmer
interesting biography of the man who supplied perfume and cosmetics to the French nobility, including Marie Antoinette. perhaps surprisingly, considering his trade, he was a staunch Republican, which helped him to survive the Revolution, even after he came under suspicion for having traded with aristocrats. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the details of how he worked, and particularly his wife's involvement in the business. A sometimes overlooked aspect of life in pre industri ...more
This was an easy read, very light-weight considering it relates to events leading up to the horrors of the French Revolution. The author concentrates on describing the various perfumed concoctions produced by the perfumer Fargeon for his aristocratic clients.

Probably of most interest to readers who are interested in the science behind perfumery.
Anna  Gibson
A brief but informative look at one of the perfumers that Marie Antoinette highly favored. Although this book seems intended to be a biography, there is much more information about the man's perfumes and products than his actual life. However, the look at the beauty products of Versailles and in particular Marie Antoinette's favorite beauty products is well worth the easy read. The scent descriptions in the book are excellent, as well, and detailed enough to give the reader a good sense of the p ...more
I love perfume, love reading about perfume ingredients, flowers, notes, the olfactory world is beautiful, yet haunting at the same time. This book dives into the secret life of Marie Antoinette's perfumer and his creations for Marie Antoinette and his close relationship with her. He produced elixirs and perfumes and scented oils for her bath and she called on him during times of distress and when she wanted to experiment with scents, she enjoyed luxury and being pampered. The book is a short his ...more
Superb. A fantastic look at a successful artisan's life and work with Marie Antoinette and the upper classes. Also highly researched and structured beautifully.
I really enjoyed this book- though I have read about four books about Marie Antoinette- this has a bourgeois viewpoint and reality that I appreciated, and generally undocumented. Also the scents and descriptions of perfume were delightful, I'm not that well versed but it made a kind of sumptuous read. I think I lost a lot in translation- jokes and such- but it wasn't an awkward read. The descriptions of Paris and Versailles, and the fetid hallways, courtyards, "smelling of death" and such had be ...more
Laura Florand
Found this fascinating.
This was a bit disappointing. Still interesting but I was expecting more biographical information. If you read Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette this book will be a nice accompaniment. I was expecting more information about the scents and body care products she used. The appendix included the perfumer's own notes on different oils, masks etc. and that was highly interesting!
An interesting companion to Fraser's "Marie Antoinette" or "Perfume: Story of a Murderer." My problem was that the scope wasn't really big enough--the details of perfume-making and even the political context were well done, but it would have been nice to hear about the other perfumers as rivals and supporting players. All in all, a surprisingly slight book.
The entire book comes off as extremely well documented, a series of stories strung together with witty use of appendices. An interesting but not entirely easy to read tale that provides first hand ac...counts of pre-Revolutionary France and Revolutionary France with a fulfilling little epilogue.
A very short read, but fascinating. The story of how a perfumer created amazing scents that won the attention of Marie Antointte and many other courtiers. It also goes a bit into the old ways of making perfume, and has lots of useful information in the back about perfume.
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