India. The Mughal period. Mid 17th century. Characteristic of these
times… an adoration of gems and royal metal and a preferred leaning
toward natural forms: Think of rock crystal… think of gold… think
of enamel and rubies and emeralds … and think of a Mango. An
unlikely combination you say?
The Middle and Far East. Pre-6000 B.C. Perfume… a concern of
priests and not cosmeticians… originating at sacred shrines in the
form of incense… a function which still survives today.
Incense… a pleasantly pungent odor that reached the church’s
worshippers through the medium of smoke. Latin: Through = per. Smoke
= fumus. Through smoke = per fumus. Yaba daba doo. Perfume. Oh ain’t
I have an image here to show you of a flask of the Mughal period.
More than likely… it held perfume. It is in the shape of a Mango.
It is inlaid with gold wire forming a fluid system of crossing and
connecting links that scroll up and around the flask. The junctures
of the wire are randomly interspersed with cabochon rubies and
The origins of perfume began with man and his search for food. He
believed his greatest offering to the gods was his most essential
possession… the carcasses of his prey which he would burn in
deferential sacrifice to the powers that ruled his very existence.
Only problem was… burning flesh has an acrid stench which needed to
be masked. Enter… eau de parfum… aka incense. And time passed…
and it was noted by some that it was not only carcasses burned as
offerings to the gods that smelled bad… but Jerry over there… and
Mary too… well… there were times when it was best to stay upwind
of them. And so new formulas were born. Oil of roses and crocus and
violets… and the body was now suddenly being anointed with honey
and cinnamon and orange blossoms. Ah… come here my little morsel of
feminine pulchritude… and let us have a sniff.
The body of the flask was made of two halves of rock crystal… all
held together by the interlacing gold wires. A delicate gold chain
connected the enameled stopper to the collar of our vessel. If this
flask were mine… I would fill it with Joy perfume by Jean Patou…
for when I was a young lad of ten or eleven a dizzyingly beautiful
nymphette with whom I went to school let me take a whiff from her
small black heart-shaped bottle and I was forever hooked.
And in Rome soldiers were considered unfit to go into battle unless
duly drenched in sweet scents. And while the Romans were conquering
… the perfumers of the day were raking it in.
So there it is… perfumes and flasks and gold and gems… a heady
delving into the world of bejeweled containers of musk and ambergris
and citric oils of lemon and orange and tangerine.
For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at www.tyler-adam.com where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Current Tidbits… and you will get to see a rock crystal flask in
the shape of a mango inlaid with gold and gems of the Mughal period
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.