The art of Ancient Mediterranean Perfumery

The world’s oldest known perfumes have been found on the island of Cyprus, reputed to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, lust, and beauty. The perfumes date back more than 4,000 years.

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We are lucky to have Ms. Paula Pulvino, founder of Villa of the Mysteries Perfumes as one of our dear expertainers. During her workshop, she invites you to explore how perfumes were made in the Ancient Roman world and blend your own fragrance with the same exact materials ancient perfumers used.

We asked her a few questions

 When did you start hand crafting perfumes?

I started making fragrances to sell over the past 3 years, but I’ve been studying fragrance and making items for friends and family for about 7 years. 

For how long has the art of perfume making been in your family and how did it all start?

My grandmother had an apothecary and perfumery shop in her village in Campania, Italy where my family is from originally. She made natural perfumes and apothecary items and sold them until she and my grandfather came to the U.S. I think that was probably during 1940’s.

My grandmother was the inspiration for me to begin making fragrances on my own, based on her original recipes. When she passed away, her “ricetti di libro” as she called it— her perfume and apothecary recipe book— was passed along to me as a memento and I realized that this was something that I really loved doing.

See Paula's profile on keenobby

How do you maintain the ancient tradition of perfume making in today’s every changing and fast moving times?

When I make something, I try not to put any sort of time frame on it. I do everything very slowly— or as my grandmother would say “lentamente”. I remember her making little mixtures in small glass bottles with corks when I was a child. She would always say that we had to “wait” until they were ready, which is very difficult when you’re a child— I always wanted to smell what was in the bottle immediately! But it seems I’ve adopted her work ethic.

What is unique about the Mediterranean perfume making and what will the participants learn from your class?  

In terms of ancient perfumery, perfumes made use of florals like rose, cooking herbs and spices, animal-derived ingredients, and woods and resins, but I suspect in very different ways than does modern perfumery. I think the aesthetic was different in that ancient perfumes were more pungent, but in a good way.

Participants will learn a short history of perfumery in the ancient world, they’ll become acquainted with some of the raw materials that were popular in perfumery during the Imperial Roman era such as Mastic, Fenugreek, Juniper, and Calamus, and they’ll learn how to make a natural perfume from ingredients like resins, woods, and citruses. 

Want to create your bespoke perfume using the ancient mediterranean traditional savor-faire and materials? Join Paula on her next workshop or request your private session:

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