I spent this Tuesday evening in one of my favorite places in the entire world, auction house Bukowskis in Berzelii Park, Stockholm. To my great pleasure and surprise – scents – were one of the main topics this evening.
Fantastic Bukowski furniture expert Björn Extergren explained how the scents in furniture objects not only bring history closer but also help in a very tangible way to define authenticity. He explained this with the help of a Swedish rococo chair, describing how the removal of color layers exposed new textures and scents…and times. Much like an archeological excavation. You can imagine, I was quite captured by this moment. I remember, from my years doing guided tours in the palaces and old parts of Stockholm, this longing to find the alive part of things from our ”before” and making it accessible for others to experience. Because it is always there. In fact, being in the presence of great architecture and art from centuries back, at some point you realize that you are actually the only transient thing.
Björn’s words about the life in what we sometimes perceive as static moved me. Also because it is a beautiful thing to watch someone in action doing what they are most passionate about. As Björn explained how they removed the color layers to find the original green and how the rose fragrance first appeared from the top of the chair, and then as they proceeded the less pleasant smells emerged. This gets to me. That a smell incapsulated under centuries of paint suddenly hits the nose of a young man from another time. It gives me existential goose-bumps in my soul. And makes me wonder, what scent will I leave in my things for my grandchildren?
This topic makes me think of the French perfume company Histoires de Parfums. Their Library of Scents is a sixteen volume collection of fragrances inspired by famous people who influenced their generation and named after their date of birth.
A thing that I appreciate about the web site is the list of fragrances group by olfactory category, and that you can order a selection of samples.
History, or lets rather say time in general, and scent is an intricate fascinating topic. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. For Swedish readers, I also recommend this text by Swedish historian and writer Peter Englund.