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Wooden essence box, Florence, Italy, 1612-1900

In this book-like wooden box, decorated with overlaid wire in a floral pattern, are five small glass bottles of essences used to make perfumes. Essences include lavender oil, vanilla essence, cedar oil and orange oil. These were truly exotic fragrances at a time when most people did little to hide their ‘natural odours’. These essences were made by Santa Maria Novella, a famous pharmacy and perfumery founded in Florence, Italy, in 1612. Originally run by the Dominicans, a religious order, the perfumery still survives today and continues to use original recipes.

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Glossary: essence box

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