on December 2, 2012
I must admit that before visiting Grasse and going through the whole Fragonard experience, I was somewhat hazy on its history. I presumed that the name of the company – which is one of the most famous perfume producers in France - came from the family who had created the company and begun to make perfumes in the 1800s. However, this was not actually the case. Whilst Fragonard was a family business, it was actually set up by a man named Eugene Fuchs before being inherited Jean Manuel Costa and later by his children. The name Fragonard had nothing to do with the people who created the parfumerie. It actually came from an eighteenth and nineteenth century painter: Jean Honore Fragonard.I was similarly confused when I saw online that there was the 'Historic Parfumerie', which housed a museum about perfume, and the 'Fragonard Museum. It seemed to me that these should be one and the same thing. However, once I arrived and began to understand that the name Fragonard was not just to be associated with perfumes I began to understand a little more. The Historic Parfumerie dealt with every that was sweet smelling, whilst the Fragonard Museum was created by the Fragonard company – specifically by Costa – to showcase the works of painters from the Grasse area with Fragonard chief amongst them.After visiting the Parfumerie, and purchasing more sweet-smelling products than could ever possibly use – we walked down a small adjoining street to the museum. I was expecting big things as the Fragonard promotional literature describes the collection of art it houses as "second only to the Louvre". It proved to be a very distant second as the museum was rather limited in scale and scope. Quite where they got the nerve to make such a claim is genuinely beyond me. The museum has three rooms of art. These include two rooms that focus solely on three artists from Grasse: Fragonard, Marguerite Gerard and Jean Baptiste Mallet. These two rooms were very nice, but they were rather small and housed just 15 pictures by Fragonard and less by the other two. For the record, Fragonard's work seemed nice albeit rather indulgent in his love of cherubs and blushing ladies. I enjoyed the work of Mallet much more. There was a third room that included other works from local artists, of which many were nice but few genuinely outstanding. As we made our way downstairs both my mother and I concluded that the art on display was very pleasant, but (a) there was nothing outstanding, and (b) the display was a little too small. Truth be told, we actually enjoyed a display in the museum's basement much more than we did the museum itself. The basement houses several temporary exhibits over the year. When we visited, we were lucky enough to find an exhibition of photographs by a French photographer who had travelled through India. Several of these were truly stunning and left the work upstairs in shadow.The Fragonard Museum is free to enter and is just 100m from the Historic Parfumerie. For these reasons alone it is worth a visit, but it is a long way from the Louvre.
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