The Mini Museum & Esscentual Alchemy – Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour

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Post by Azar

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Hello APJ,

Several years ago both Brad and I collected all kinds of antiques. We were such crazy collectors that at one point our home began to take on the aspect of a museum. When we moved from that very old house (by American standards an antique in it’s own right) into a larger, more “modern” 1960s home, we gave away or sold many of our old “treasures”. In our new house we resolved to maintain a clean, spare look and try not to become burdened by our stuff. Well, as you probably have guessed, that resolution didn’t last. These days we don’t feel quite so driven to possess used things but we still like the look and feel of something old. I believe that I can sense another person’s way of life or spirit in a vintage piece, not unlike the experience of using someone else’s pen or pencil. For example, when I play a friend’s musical instrument I find it has taken on certain aspects of the musicality of the person who regularly uses it. This phenomenon may be the result of an actual physical change in the instrument’s materials brought on by years of exposure to the player’s individual style.

The Mini Museum & Esscentual Alchemy

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour

That being said, toward the end of the summer we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of an unguentarium and two other ancient miniature glass pieces from the Mini Museum’s Unguent, Unguentarium and U Tour. It was a weird experience when we finally opened the boxes. The unguentarium, a very small (just over 4cm high) mouth blown glass bottle, encrusted with sediment, was from the early Roman period, circa the 1st century A.D. It was carefully packaged in sand to give the impression of an archeological dig. An unguentarium (from the Latin unguentarius, a perfumer or dealer in unguents) is a small vessel designed to hold liquid, solid or semi-solid perfumes, cosmetics, perfumed oils, etc. These little bottles can still be found in ancient Greek and Roman sites, especially in tombs.

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour #1

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour #2

My favorite of the three artifacts was a longer (7.30 cm), narrower and seemingly more delicate bottle, also of mouth blown glass dating from roughly the same period. This lovely little piece was called a lachrymatory – a vessel for tears or a tear catcher – also used to hold perfumes, fragrant oils and unguents. It is believed that the ancients used these bottles to gather their tears, burying them with their deceased loved ones.

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour #4

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour #3

The third artifact was a tiny blown glass mold form probably created around 50. A.D. in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon).

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour #5

Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour #6

In addition to the three ancient minis there were two modern perfume samples, created by perfumer Amanda Feeley of Essential Alchemy specifically for this Mini Museum traveling unguentraium project. Here is a brief description of these fragrances from the museum’s fact sheets:

” ‘Helena’ is the chosen name for both the ancient vessel…and the commissioned re-creation of [an] ancient Roman unguent by perfumer, Amanda Feeley. In her meditation with the vial, Amanda ‘felt an image of a woman in a garden on a warm, spring day’…The end result was her ‘Helena’ – the reconstructed, oil-based fragrance of 30% parfum concentration and ‘Helena MMXIV’ – the brighter, alcohol-based eau de parfum…”

For more information about these beautiful fragrances check Amanda Feeley’s website. I understand there will be another Unguentarium Tour next year. If you are interested in the project contact Allen at the Miniature Perfume Shoppe/Mini Museum

Azar xx

18 comments on “The Mini Museum & Esscentual Alchemy – Unguent, Unguentarium & U Tour

  1. Amanda says:

    Hi Azar,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the APJ audience 🙂 I’m very glad to know that you enjoyed the olfactory trip through time! This collaboration has been one of my favorites, as I’m also a history enthusiast. Reading through Pliny the Elder’s Volumes of Natural History was very educational, and fascinating. It was interesting to research the botanicals used and to try to figure out which plants he was writing about. It was neat to see how many of these plants are still used in natural perfumery today!

    Scentedly yours,
    Amanda

    • Azar says:

      Hi Amanda,
      I was so carried away with the bottles that I ran out of room to do justice to the beautiful perfumes that you created for the project. This post “will be continued” soon with a second installment about Elena and Elena MMXIV. Thank you and Allen again for this fascinating trip through time!
      Azar xx

      • Azar says:

        Oh dear! I’m sorry. Helena and Helena MMXIV not Elena! I am actually wearing Helena right now.
        Azar xx

      • Amanda says:

        I’m so happy to know that you liked my Helenas 🙂 I had contemplated creating “Caesar’s unguent” as Pliny kindly provided unguent formulae, but in the end, I wanted to make something that the “average” person might have worn.

        Another interesting tidbit about the botanicals, is that previous to Carl Linnaeus’ system, there was no standardized botanical nomenclature used. So sometimes there was debate about which plant was being talked about.

      • Amanda says:

        I also got a bit carried away when I had my chance to hold and hang out with the unguentaria 🙂 It’s pretty amazing and humbling to hold something that is over 2,000 in your little hands! Kinda puts it all in perspective.

  2. australianperfumejunkies says:

    WOW Azar. These are amazing. Thanks for showing us.
    I’ve just opened your present, FRAGS!! Thank You. Tomorrow I’ll start sniffing them. You’re a star.
    Portia xx

    • Azar says:

      Hi Portia,

      We have had so much fun with the UUU project. Like I said in the post, I think Allen will be doing another tour next year and may have openings. At this moment I am enjoying the last drops of the Helena and Helena MMXIV samples that were part of the the tour.

      I continue to have fun with the vintage samples and the tea towels from my APJ winnings:) Amazingly cute and so much fun and so beautiful! Thank you.
      Regarding the gift frags…my all time favorite cheapie is in there – Curve Kicks 🙂 I have a post lined up for that one too. Let me know what you think of it!

      Azar xx

      • australianperfumejunkies says:

        Could you get our vibes from the Tea Towels?
        I LOVED reading that in this post. We sent them with so much love.
        Yes, you’ve spoken of Curve Kicks, I can’t wait
        Portia x

      • Azar says:

        Yes I could! As soon as I opened the package…in fact BEFORE I opened the package. Lots of love and a comforting atmosphere of home and family things! Regarding the Kicks…let me know what you think but don’t pull any punches. I am still trying to to sort out why I prefer this to some of the really expensive things around here.
        Azar xxx

  3. ElizabethC says:

    Was lucky enough to get samples of the perfumes and they are lovely (very elegant!). The idea of a mobile museum (especially one based on scent) is so wonderful and creative!

  4. poodle says:

    Very interesting post. I have to admit when you mentioned a vessel for collecting tears my mind went straight to Harry Potter collecting Snape’s tears which contain the memories he wants Harry to see. Damn, that’s a sad scene. I’ve got a thing for Snape.
    Anyway, these vessels are so interesting and I bet the perfumes are pretty amazing bringing the whole experience together.

    • Azar says:

      Hi Poodle,

      I wish my photos could have been better! Allen at the Mini Museum has pictures of these and more ancient bottles (see the first link in the post).

      I rather liked Snape too. I could stand to reread every Harry Potter book and see every movie again!

      Azar xxx

  5. Greg says:

    Thanks Azar, that was really interesting. i love my vintage perfume bottles, but I have nothing that remotely compares to those ancient pieces. Just wonderful to look at and read about.

    • Azar says:

      Thank you, Greg!

      I have loved vintage perfume bottles ever since my grandmother showed me her collection when I was about 5 years old. I remember that she had what I now recognize as cut crystal Czech bottles and a few deco pieces. I still have a small collection of modern blown glass bottles but the old crystal and vintage commercial bottles were victim to the antique purge I talk about in the post. Sometimes I wish I would have kept a few more of them…

      Azar xx

  6. Lauren says:

    This is really cool! I hadn’t heard of the Unguentarium Tour before. Sounds like a really fun thing to do:) The fragrances sound really nice too! I’ll have to check out her website…

    • Azar says:

      Hi Lauren,
      The world has changed a lot since those bottles were made but people obviously loved and used fragrance just as much then as we do today. There was a message about humanity in those bottles – something timeless…
      Love,
      Mommy Azar xx and X

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