Monday, October 29, 2012

Perfume obsession: Bon Marché described by Emile Zola in The Ladie's Paradise

Illustration of the interiors of the Bon Marché mall, Paris, by Frederic Theodore, circa 1875

''Even in the buffet the ladies began to smell the perfume department; the penetrating scent of sachets pervaded the gallery. There was quite a struggle over a particular soap, the Paradise soap, a speciality of the shop. Inside the display counters and on the small crystal shelves of the showcases pots of pomades and creams were lined up, boxes of powder and rouge, phials of oils and toilet waters; while the fine brushes, combs, scissors, and pocket flasks occupied a special cupboard. The salesmen had used their ingenuity to decorate the display with all their white china pots and all their white glass phials. The customers were delighted by a silver fountain in the centre, a shepherdess standing in a harvest of flowers, from which a continuous trickle of violet water was flowing, tinkling musically in the metal basin. An exquisite scent was spreading everywhere, and the ladies soaked their handkerchiefs in it as they passed. 
''There!'' said Madame Marty, when she had loaded herself with lotions, toothpastes, and cosmetics. ''That's enough, now I'm at you disposal. Let's go and find Madame de Boves.''
Emile Zola, The Ladie's Paradise, 1883

The shop described by Zola is Le Bon Marché mall in Paris. This was a nice discovery! One of those that makes you smile and feel proud of an exciting research back in the XIX century! Some more curiosities have still to come!!!


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