Vintages Myrurgia - The Art of Perfume

Myrurgia - The Art of Perfume

01/21/16 05:23:32 (10 comments)

by: Afonso Oliveira

Afonso Oliveira is the international vice president of a growing collective of collectors that focus on the design of perfume bottles: the International Perfume Bottle Association (IPBA). After our interview where he explained what IPBA stands for and after showing us some of his treasures from his collection, I invited him to share with Fragrantica an article he wrote about the Spanish brand Myrurgia, published in IPBA's magazine Perfume Bottle Quarterly. - Miguel Matos

Because there was some conflicting information about the company founding from various sources, Afonso contacted the grandson (Esteban Rodes Monegal) to verify who was involved in the company startup. Esteban emailed Afonso and advised that the father of Esteban (his great-grandfatther named Ramon Monegal) was a chemist and owned a drugstore (Drug SAM) in the center of the city of Barcelona, Spain. Ramon helped provide start-up funds for Myrurgia and gave good drugstore clients shares in the Myrurgia company (he was not totally sold on how successful his son would be). Later, the family laughs because Esteban’s father (Manuel Rodés) had to travel throughout Spain in the 1950’s recovering some shares since he did not have a majority stake.

Normally perfume brands nave the name of the creator or family surname. This brand was founded by the Catalan family of Monegal in Spain in 1916. Esteban Monegal (Barcelona, 1888-1970) was a sculptor, musician and poet and studied in both Barcelona and Paris. Esteban left his artistic career to take over the Myrurgia Company from his father Raymon, at the age of 28. Due to his background (he had training in Perfume), he was very instrumental in the company "look" and direction for many years.

Sources generally attribute the name Myrurgia to mean the “Art of Perfume”. But the grandson also advised that the name came from MYRRON (myrrh which is a fragrant or sweet oil/perfume) and URGE (Industry) so it could have also meant perfume industry or perfume factory.

Esteban applied all his knowledge and culture to the labels, bottles, boxes and advertising. Some of the bottles designed by Julian Viard, and others by Esteban Monegal himself. Myrurgia's perfumes and advertisements embraced the cultural movements like Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Surrealism periods which can easily be seen in some of the advertisements shown in this article-. What follows are some of my favourites developed by Myrurgia.

One of the earliest bottles in my collection is Mimosa de Oro dated from 1917. The bottle stands on a round base and the bottle has a slightly oval shape, with the oval pattern repeating in the center front of the bottle. The stopper is clear crystal inlaid in cork. At the bottom of the oval label is an oval medallion of a feminine figure that appears inspired by a Greek Muse.

This powder box dates from 1917 and has been done by the Industria Brasileira. Promessa means commitment. On the powder box is a drawing with 3 people at a fancy ball. The man appears to be trying to talk to a lady, who is turning her face away from this gentleman. There is a third young lady standing by the gentleman, perhaps there was a misunderstanding on who promised the next dance?

Even though machine technology was used in production of the bottles and boxed presentations, hand work was also used. Maderas de Oriente (1918) was placed in a Moorish Style wood box that had a hand painted bottle with a piece of sandalwood inside. The wood box also had a colourful wool braiding coming of the top of the box. These bottles were designed by Julien Viard. The large bottle is hand painted and the small has a paper label. It is speculated that the sandalwood was placed in the bottle as a "curiosity" but Helen Farnsworth advises the fragrant wood reflects the name of this perfume – Woods of the Orient.

Through the years, Maderas de Oriente proved to be a very famous and long standing fragrance that had different presentations like the modernistic bottles in this photo. The perfume bottle is now rectangular with rounded panels on each side, a black painted crystal stopper and a beautiful gold foil label in the center front. In the interior of the bottle, is the ever present sandalwood stick.

In 1929 Maderas de Oriente changed the bottle and label design again. The bottle is now an art deco shaped clear glass bottle with four soft shouldered steps on each side and a black Bakelite screw cap. The paper label is blue and white. The label appears to be a melding of a mosque or minaret design complete with onion shaped roof at the base in contrast to a tall white skyscraper off to the right. The label is cut into an art deco sky scraper design to further reinforce the "modernistic" look. The powder box has the same imge as the perfume bottle label. A beautiful oriental graphic appears on the exterior box labelled Colonia el Extracto (extract cologne) that carries over the original 1918 bottle label design.

Christie Mayer Lefkowith in her book "Masterpieces of the Perfume Industry", wrote about this bottle on pages 130 and 131, she advised: "Viard had many clients in France and also in England, Italy and Spain creating masterpieces for two Barcelona companies, Myrurgia and Cortes Hermanos, with themes and decorative motifs inspired by Spain. He created a very unusual stopper for Myrurgia resembling, in my opinion, the fountain water jets of Arabic and Spanish patio. This stopper design was adopted to the special requirement of large lotion bottles and was refined for smaller perfume flacons. The most extreme form of this jet stopper model was exaggerated and delicate stopper for the perfume 'Maja'. A luxurious version of 'Maja' was produced in gild black glass. The large size 'Maja' boxes were decorated with a Spanish shawl motif”

Around the box it reads: "Todas las flores de España en un solo perfume" which translates to: All the flowers of Spain in one perfume. The oriental influence could be to honor the Arab people that have lived in Spain since the middle ages and made many contributions to the development of the perfume industry. (The Moors - Arabs - conquered Spain in 811 and were there until 1492 and hence Spain alone in Europe has a very significant cultural heritage from the Near East, Arabs and Islam'). Other credits are to the Spanish woman as Maja means in slang a pretty street woman, hence one who is available.

On the second part of this article the story of Myrurgia continues next week with the history of Myrurgia and the bottles of Suspiro de Granada, Embrujo de Sevilla, Orgia, Flor de Blason and Joya.

All the bottles belong to the collection of Afonso Oliveira.

 

Afonso Oliveira

Afonso Oliveira, has worked in the perfumery industry for over 30 years. He is a collector of antique perfume bottles and is the Vice President of the International Perfume Bottle Association. One of the great passions of Afonso is researching the golden years of international and Portuguese Perfumery.

 



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Angelica 000
Angelica 000

Thank you for the chance to see those beautiful bottles, as well as a very informative article. I wore Maja all through my teens up until my 30's. Reading this I could still smell it as it was.

Feb
12
2016
Maeva
Maeva

Wow! I also wish that today it was possible to find a perfume with bars of sandalwood inside its bottle. I could even buy it blind! And what wonderful designs, both aesthetically an conceptually speaking.

Myrurgia was a great institution in the history of my city, Barcelona. I remember talking to an old man that lived in the same area as the Myrurgia factory when there was a fire in the premises, in 1963, and how he said the scent of Maderas de Oriente permeated the whole neighbourhood for five days afterwards! Also, the brand is always in my memories because it was my granny's signature for many years (how many times I stole a spritz or two when I visited her...). I've loved to know a little more about Myrurgia and the design of its bottles, and especially the name of designer Julian Viard, who definitely is worth some research.

Thank you so much, Sr. Oliveira and Miguel for sharing all this knowledge and beauty with us! Looking forward to reading the second part.

EDIT: Maybe you forgot to include the picture of the Promessa powder box described after the bottle of Mimosa de Oro, didn't you? :(

Feb
12
2016
gypsy parfumista
gypsy parfumista

I love articles like this, perfume history indeed...and such a grand and (at least in my par of the US) virtually unknown House to most. Joya is a true delight and Colonia is up there with AVON Moonwind in my Hall of Immortals as all time vintage discontinued scents marketed to women go. *PLEASE cover Colonia and, if you would happen to know, about the concentrations (1/4, 1/8...?)*

Now that I know Maderas de Orientes includes a stick of santal I sooo want a bottle!! Myrurgia Maja is another treasure. I did *not* realize what the name implied...but love it and find it naughtily à propos!!

Part 2? Can't wait. Muchas gracias!!!

Jan
22
2016
Filomena1941
Filomena1941

This article made me nostalgic. I only remember Maja by Myrurgia...which I really thought was lovely back then. I wonder what I would think of it today. There weren't so many perfumes back then as they are today (as there were not any celebrity perfumes then). I recall a drug store in the downtown area of my City that also sold fine perfumes. It is was a sense of excitement and a joy to go in there and sample all the lovely fragrances.

Jan
21
2016
an.jorePipip
an.jorePipip

I am still using Myrurgia Maja soap, very good quality soap, balance between moisturizer and scent really boost my mood

Jan
21
2016
Islandaromatika
Islandaromatika

Thank you so much for this great article! We spent 12 summers on Ibiza back in the 60's. At that time you could only get there by steamer so that always meant a stop overnight in Barcalona. My mom would rush out and stock up on Maja edt and soap, the soap I still use to this day. It brings such strong memories for me! Again, thanks!

Jan
21
2016
La DameDeNoir
La DameDeNoir

Great article, thank you very much for it. The pity is that Myrurgia exists no longer :(

Jan
21
2016
angel6
angel6

Beautiful article, I wish that included my mother's favourite "Promessa", it was so beautiful and romantic. I miss he old classic perfumes.

Jan
21
2016
drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Delightful! I happily anticipate the next article.

Jan
21
2016
rp6969
rp6969

Wonderful article! I look forward to future installments.

Jan
21
2016

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