Versailles: scents and sensibility
In the 17th century, just as Louis XIV had commissioned work on the Trianon de Porcelaine — replaced by the Trianon de Marbre in 1687 — flowers were in fashion, and the Trianon gardens were flooded with heady, fragrant floral plants: jasmine, tuberose, and hyacinth. Awash with spell-binding scent, the gardens were set up with a nursery system that ensured they bloomed all year round.
Alongside this, fragrance was taking off at the court of Versailles, with the palace becoming the cradle of perfume-making craft and artistry from the late 17th century on. The master perfumers here strove to provide sovereigns and courtiers alike with ever more sophisticated products, from fragrances and sachets to scented gloves and fans.
In the 18th century, cosmetics thrived in step with the rise of the personal hygiene movement. Perfumery as an art and trade was in vogue, drawing in specialists in ever greater numbers, including Claude-François Prévost, perfumer to Queen Marie-Antoinette.
The Perfumer’s Garden
Set alongside the Châteauneuf Orangery, the Perfumer’s Garden – “Le Jardin du Parfumeur” in French – was created with the support of patron Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and will bring together hundreds of flowering species: traditional plants (rose, jasmine), essences that exude unexpected aromas (chocolate, apple), odorous species, and “mute” or silent flowers, such as hyacinth, peony, and violet, which release no extract that can be used in perfumery, despite having a clearly identifiable smell. As a result, perfumers are forced to replicate their scents synthetically.
This garden is composed of three areas with clearly defined identities: "The garden of curiosities" in front of the Orangerie gathering most of the floral essences, "Under the trees" with its blossomed walkway of Japanese cherry trees, and "The secret garden" and its intimate atmosphere.
Starting from May 30th, 2023, a number of tours and workshops will be available to the general public, school groups, students and associations to make them discover Versailles under a different light.
maison Francis Kurkdjian and the palace of versailles
From the age of twenty-four, Francis Kurkdjian’s life path has been intricately bound with the Palace of Versailles. A graduate of Versailles’ perfumery school, years later he went on to create a replica of Marie-Antoinette’s fragrance Sillage de la Reine, drawing on archive documents for inspiration.
From the moment he first met Marc Chaya in 2003, he spoke of his vision: returning to the whimsy of the Sun King’s lavish parties, for which the pools and fountains in Versailles’ gardens were scented. In 2006, the pair put their heads together to ensure Francis Kurkdjian was able to design and make the “Soleil de Minuit” olfactory installation for 2006’s Versailles Off festival. A scent of orange blossoms spread in the air from the Orangery parterre while the water of its pool was colored with a flaming sunset tangerine.
For the Grandes Eaux Nocturnes in 2007 and 2008, Francis Kurkdjian brought to life an olfactory experience in the heart of the Palace of Versailles’ gardens. Sixteen bubble machines surrounded visitors in thousands of bubbles scented with strawberry, pear and melon — Louis XIV’s favourite fruits. Francis Kurkdjian also created the “Chutt... d’Eau” and “Le Roi Danse” olfactory installations, set up in the Grove of the Three Fountains and the Ballroom Grove, respectively.
In 2009, Francis Kurkdjian and Marc Chaya launched Maison Francis Kurkdjian, which is now part of the LVMH group. Together, they map out sensual, generous, multi-faceted olfactory experiences where freedom of expression reigns supreme, working hand in hand in a new embodiment of the French art of living and craftsmanship.
In 2022, Maison Francis Kurkdjian became the proud patron of the Perfumer’s Garden project, thereby continuing its commitment to supporting the Palace of Versailles.