The fragrance factory: Roure-Bertrand Fils and the perfume industry in Grasse

women sitting at long tables working with flowers, large piles of flowers are in the foreground

When we spray on perfume, how often do we think about how the fragrance was made?

The process to extract fragrances and oils from flowers is a perfect blend of nature, science and industry, as illustrated beautifully by this short book about Roure-Bertrand Fils factory in Grasse, France.

Perfume and scents have been worn by people for centuries, becoming an industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Grasse – a world capital of perfume – was home to the perfumerie of Roure-Bertrand Fils whose origins date back to 1820.

Roure-Bertrand provided aromatic plants and essential oils to create fragrances for other brands, who mix, blend, bottle and sell the perfume.

The firm’s technical and scientific innovation in extracting oils and essences helped establish them as a leader in modern perfumery. In 1900, Roure Bertrand Fils was presented with a grand prize at the Universal Exposition in Paris.

This book – part of the digitised collections of the the Bibliotheque national de France – dates from then, and contains 30 photographs illustrating the process from flower field to bottled perfume.

This selection shows highlights of the process – you can also browse the full book here.

RELATED: See photographs of how the factory looks today

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation


Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in the perfume industry in Grasse or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

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