With its origins rooted in the experiments of Dominican monks, a retail operation was established in Via Reginaldo Giuliani in 1612 by Fra Angiolo Marchissi and it remained in the ownership of the Church of Santa Maria Novella until 1866.
In an era when sweet-smelling aromas were thought to counter the spread of disease, scented waters were deemed as important to a ‘modern’ pharmacy as curative tonics and digestive aids. Acqua della Regina, the first perfume to use alcohol rather than vinegar or olive oil as a base, was given by the chemists of Santa Maria to patron Catherine de Medici before her departure for France in 1533.
The Fonderia di S Maria Novella scent bottles offered as part of Tennants’ live online auction of Jewellery, Watches & Silver in Leyburn on January 9 were of a much later vintage.
However, dating from c.1800, these were remarkable survivors.
Housed within a case formed as a gilt-tooled morocco leather book titled Quint Essenze were a series of six bottles (one probably associated) with various labels in Italian for nutmeg, camphor, cedar, lavender and bergamot.
The case, retaining its original printed label, is similar to another from the collection of Drom Fragrances illustrated in Edmund Launert’s Scent and Scent Bottles (1974).
Tennants guided the lot, which formed part of a small collection of perfume bottles, at £120-180 but it met far greater competition. The hammer price, bid by the UK trade, was £2200 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).