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

Elisabeth de Feydeau, Author, Jane Lizop, Translator , trans. from the French by Jane Lizop, intro. by Catherine Wright. I.B. Tauris $26.95 (140p) ISBN 978-1-84511-189-2

Feydeau, a professor at the Versailles School of Perfumers, draws on the papers of perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon to reveal the secrets of his luxurious creations for Marie Antoinette. A native of Montpellier, Fargeon moved to Paris, becoming an apprentice to one of the city's most fashionable perfumers. Fargeon won the queen's favor with a gift of exceptional scented kidskin riding gloves and rapidly gained her confidence; he treated her secret pregnancy-related hair loss and became her loyal friend. Tracing Marie Antoinette's extravagant expenditures and far-fetched follies amid increasingly enraged public opinion, Feydeau charts the fall of the house of Versailles, Marie Antoinette's decline during her imprisonment and Fargeon's own fate. While the perfumer declared himself to be a Republican, he was also a wealthy man with royal connections and thus a natural target for the Revolution. While arrested, he managed to escape trial. Feydeau's modest tome is sympathetic to Marie Antoinette; rather than provide much historical context, it spotlights the intimate life of the palace, excelling chiefly in explanations of fascinating 18th-century beauty secrets, from black adhesive taffeta beauty spots to swan's down powder puffs. Botanical appendixes list the ingredients and methods of Fargeon's influential unguents. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/22/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
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