13 febbraio 2013

The Masters of Perfume:
Edmond Roudnitska (1905-1996) (1)

"The public, harassed by so many brands, deceived by a flood of questionable products which skew its judgment and taste, is getting used to mediocre or trivial productions" Edmond Roudnitska

These words seem to have been written yesterday, nevertheless they are taken from Une Vie au Service du Parfum (Thérèse Vian Éditions, 1991) and Edmond Roudnitska back in 1959 used them to report about the perfumery scenario at that time. That's why I chose them to start speaking about this master of perfume, because to me they briefly resume his complete love for beauty and the passion for his job. Above all they are the outcome of a great sensibility that allowed him to understand past and present and to sense the future of a profession most of all in the past century he contributed in raising from handcraft to the status of invisible Art with a few masterpieces (17 perfumes in 70 years!) and several articles.
Last May during the Smell Festival I had the great chance to talk about Edmond Roudnitska and his vision of perfumery with Michel Roudnitska and Bernard Bourjois. Moreover thanks to Bertrand that like Roudnitska worked for Hermès, for sharing with me the following thoughts about this father of contemporary perfumery.

Edmond Roudnitska, a legendary perfumer
Edmond and Thérèse Roudnitska
with Jean-Louis Dumas Hermès
"Since the beginning of his career as a perfumer in 1926, Edmond Roudnitska made a religion of it. His exceptional pursuit as a perfume creator allows him to meet Christian Dior, Marcel Rochas, Ernest Daltroff at Caron, Ernest Beaux at Chanel, the very influential Jacques Guerlain and many other renowned talents.
His artistic culture, his aesthetic education and his scientific interest lead him to speak a lot in public about his job as a perfumer. He's the first to do it and with great convinction he elevates the perfume to the rank of work of art. His passionate engagement in defending the creation in perfumery and for the acknowledgement of the concept of artistic property must be hailed for its visionary lucidity. Master inspired by the olfactory shape, Edmond Roudnitska holds dearest the creation with a singular character, joined by the technical qualities of volume, sillage and lasting power.
His olfactory hand favours rigour, brevity, freshness, fluency and sobriety avoiding in particular thick and edible effects which he judges brutal and vulgar.

For Marcel Rochas he created Femme in 1944, fruity aldehydic floral compared with chypres, dedicated to Hélène Rochas, then Chiffon in 1946 later renamed Mousseline to his great regret. In 1948 starting from an original idea of his wife Thérèse, he creates Moustache which is considered the first masculine eau de toilette.
In memory of Emile Hermès, he fancies Eau d’Hermès in 1951, marriage between aged leather and a good perfume. This hesperidic, floral spicy and leathery composition is considered by his greatest pupils Pierre Bourdon and Jean Claude Ellena as Edmond Roudnitska's most successful masterpiece.
For Christian Dior he composes in 1955 Eau Fraîche with a chypre structure he loves most, bearing great elegance and sobriety. Then Diorissimo in 1956, stylized and radiant perfume evoking spring and youth based on a muguet theme, Christian Dior's cherished flower. His technical and astistic mastery reaches its height with Eau Sauvage created in 1966, a chypre born from a deep reinterpretation of the famous Chypre by François Coty. Masterly and timeless work, planetary success model which widely influenced the modern perfumery, Edmond Roudnitska's Eau sauvage is before time an androginous creation with a strong nature and a bright freshness. Last creation, Diorella in 1972 is an inspired feminine, prototype of a young girl's perfume bearing an everlasting beauty.
For all his works, Edmond Roudnitska is for sure the epoch-marking figure for the perfumery of the XX century right after Jacques Guerlain and François Coty."

Many thanks again to Bernard Bourgeois for his precious contribution

Bernard Bourgeois of the Osmothèque at Smell Festival
photo by Luca Gambi
Special thanks to Michel Roudnitska for granting permission to publish texts and images

<Part 2>

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