Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Memories

My first memories of Art Deco atomizers was at a young age. I remembered seeing a program by the Kovels called the Collector or Know Your Antiques, it was about collectors and their antiques. I can remember that I saw a woman who had a huge collection of antique and vintage perfume bottles, this woman’s collection included Victorian, Art Deco and Czech bottles, but the ones that captured my interest were those gorgeous Deco DeVilbiss bottles all artfully displayed amongst the other perfumes. They stood like elegant sentries guarding the precious English cameo glass scent bottles and fine cut glass examples of the Edwardian era.

It wasn’t until a few years later when I saw them pictured in a book on American Art Glass and I was thrilled to see who manufactured these beauties. It was then that I was hooked on finding out more about DeVilbiss perfumes. I was fascinated at how many different styles and designs were produced. So many different finishes, decorations, colors, shapes and mountings. It was also around that time when I discovered other bottles that looked a lot like DeVilbiss, but were made by other companies. My curiosity grew but then came to a halt when I realized that there wasn’t much written about DeVilbiss or their competitors at the time. I had seen a couple books on perfume bottles which had briefly mentioned DeVilbiss and showed several bottles, but always hoped to find a book that had more DeVilbiss pieces.

I also have an unusual theory of where DeVilbiss may have got the inspiration for the design some of the most common of his perfumizers. In 1922, Howard Carter discovered King Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. This sparked a huge craze in anything Egyptian related and created another wave of Egyptian Revival. All things Egyptian were in furniture, vanity items, jewelry, architecture, fashion, flatware, metalware, glass, paper goods, books and porcelain. Pictures of tomb paintings and artifacts were emblazoned in the magazines and newspapers of the day.

I have seen several instances in books on Ancient Egypt which show a very distinct object, known as a vessel for pouring the libations and holy perfumes of the gods. The hieroglyph for “to praise” or “favor” is a hes-jar. These important sacred ewers, called hes-vases or hes-jars, are coincidentally the same shape as the Art Deco DeVilbiss perfumizers. One of these hes-vases are shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I wonder if DeVilbiss saw a picture of a tomb painting and was inspired to create his sleek Art Deco perfumizers. I often think of perfumes themselves as gifts from the gods.

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