Exploring the obscure – my journey

Home » Uncategorized » Spreading the knowledge of historical perfumery and cosmetics – available talks

Spreading the knowledge of historical perfumery and cosmetics – available talks

Text Widget

This is a text widget. The Text Widget allows you to add text or HTML to your sidebar. You can use a text widget to display text, links, images, HTML, or a combination of these. Edit them in the Widget section of the Customizer.

The current list of talks I can offer:

This is the short introduction to the perfumery of the western world (3 parts)

1. Historical Perfumery in the West. From The Bronze Age To Classical Antiquity (90 minutes)

Part 1 of course dedicated to the earliest perfumery history in the western world. I will cover both written sources and archaeological discoveries.

2. Historical Perfumery in the West. How To Be Like Empress Zoe (Eastern Empire) (90 minutes)

Part 2 of the course dedicated to the historical perfumery in the western world. We will discuss the fragrant world of the Eastern Empire (Byzantium). By the way, Empress Zoe was known for her young looks and passion for creating her own perfumes. And driving mad her courtiers and eunuchs who spent a lot of time grinding and mixing her concoctions…

3. Historical Perfumery in the West. Late Medieval And Renaissance Recipes (90 minutes)

Part 3 of the course dedicated to the history of the perfumery in the western world. We will discuss late medieval and Renaissance recipes which survived both in materia medica and book of secrets texts. Be prepared for plenty of musk and other animalistic odors.

4. The perfumery handbook of Al-Zahrawi or how to perfume everyone and everything in 11th century Al-Andalus (120 minutes)

Al-Zahrawi (or Albucasis) is mostly known as author of major medical texts, but he was also renowned for his work on perfumery and beauty care. This class will discuss the basics of the early Arabic perfumery that shaped Albucasis’ approach to aromatherapy and fragrances. We will also cover major aromatics used in 10th century, technology of production of incense, fragrant oils/waters and the many varieties of fragrances used by elites of Al-Andalus.

5. Ramik, sukk and galiyah – the amazing scents of early Islamic states (2 hours)

The art of perfumery in early Muslim states influenced the use of fragrances from Byzantium to Song Dynasty China. I will cover the aromatics used in perfumery (including carryovers from antiquity and new imports), the methods of fragrance preparation, sources for recipes, and the view of contemporary authors on fragrance use in daily life. As a bonus, I will discuss the preparation of a few basic fragrances like sukk (a compound ingredients used in many recipes), bukhur (compound incense) and duhn of ben (a scented oil preparation). The modern substitute for major aromatics will be also included.

6. Roman cosmetics – archaeological extant samples and how to make them (60 minutes)

We know a lot about Roman cosmetics from literary works and figurative art. But the neglected part are the extant samples of cosmetics found within the Roman territories. I will discuss the archaeological discoveries and methods which can be used for recreation. Warning: some cosmetics are toxic and can be only used as part of display.

7. Roman makeup – a survey based on literary and archaeological sources (120 minutes)

A survey of makeup products used by the wealthy women and by the not so affluent. I will also discuss tools and methods used for making the cosmetics and applying the makeup.

8. Everything red, purple and pink – a survey of historical color cosmetics for lips and cheeks (60 minutes)The shades of red, pink and purple were always considered attractive to the human eye and pigments like red earth (iron oxide) were among first used for purpose of face adornment. I will present a survey of historical cosmetics in shades of red, purple and pink, from Bronze Age to 16th century. We will visit ancient Sumer, Egypt, Rome and its territories, China, and we will end up our journey in Renaissance Europe.

9. Renaissance perfumes – a practical approach (this is a class on starting own still room in the kitchen) (90 minutes)

This class will cover an introduction to perfumery in Renaissance Europe and best ways to start own journey into the art of compounding historical fragrances. I will discuss reputable sources of aromatics, cheapest way to start your own still room and safety precautions.

10. ‘Divine Beads, Beads from the Paradise’ – introduction to historical fragrant jewelry (90 minutes)

Fragrant jewelry made of aromatics appeared quite early though it is hard to find extant artefacts because of their fragility. We will visit ancient Rome, early Islamic caliphates, medieval China, and Renaissance Italy to have a look at recreated fragrant beads and pomanders.

11. Sticky stuff – binders used in Chinese fragrances (60 minutes)

There is much more to binders than just honey or plum pulp. Several plant-based ingredients were used as binders which is a unique tradition of Chinese fragrance technology. Each binder will be discussed in a context of a specific fragrance recipe. This class requires some familiarity with methods used in making traditional incense blends in the Far East Asia.

12. Tea – another look at the bitter herb (60 minutes)

Tea throughout Chinese history was used as medicine (directly or indirectly to prepare other ingredients), or as beverage. It was served in multitude of styles – as a thick beverage with milk and meat during the early period, as sweetened pills to quench thirst, to the exquisite flavored teas during Song Dynasty period (960 – 1279) though it was not our Earl Grey. I will discuss the various uses of tea and the proper way to prepare the flavored tea.

13. The art of perfumery in ancient Rome (90 minutes)

This class is dedicated to the perfumery in ancient Rome. We will discuss the aromatics used and their sources, methods used for preparation and contemporary views on perfuming. I will cover both written sources and archaeological discoveries.

This series of talks is a survey of perfumery traditions in pre-imperial and imperial China, and will cover the period from Warring States period to early 17th century (3 parts)

14. Perfumery handbook of China. The beginnings (Warring States period to Tang Dynasty) (90 minutes)

This talk covers the earliest olfactory traditions and the progress as new ideas and ingredients started to arrive in China with the opening of Han Dynasty China to foreign influences. It is a fascinating journey from simple bitter herbs use to complex blends, heavily influenced by Indian, and eventually Arabic perfumery.

15. Perfumery handbook of China. Dragon’s brain, dragon’s spittle – the exquisite fragrances of China’s Song Dynasty (90 minutes)

The art of incense compounding reached its height during Song Dynasty. The influences of Indian states and Muslim caliphates’ perfumery traditions were blended with Chinese aesthetics to create the most unique scents in Chinese history. No wonder that at least two emperors of Song were accused of spending more time on compounding new incense blends than on governing. It was also a period when incense compounding split into the art pursued by aristocracy and ‘democratic’ cheap blends accessible for the less affluent populace. We will discuss ingredients and their origins, the extant recipe sources and dissect a few recipes, showing the variety of fragrances available during this period.

16. Perfumery handbook of China. Fragrances of conquest dynasties to Ming Dynasty (90 minutes)

During the period of division and unrest (conquest dynasties of Liao-Jin-Western Xia-Yuan), the Chinese olfactory traditions were spread to the northern tribes as the books, physicians, and aromatics traveled to the newly established states. Many aromatics were exported at massive scale from China to the western world, especially during the Yuan rule. With the reestablishment of Han ruling family (Ming Dynasty), the olfactory traditions were consolidated and the division into the ‘high’ art of incense blending and ‘low’ type production of cheap incense for the masses was finalized. Some of the major written works on fragrances and materia medica were completed during this period, and we are lucky to have them still available.

The talks are available free of charge for the non-profit organization (offered online through the Zoom platform).

In-person lectures combined with displays and fragrance/cosmetics testing are available at a very limited basis in US and Poland (I do not travel much – not enough vacation time or funds for travel).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: