There is such a plethora of bottles designs at the historical house of Guerlain that the perfume bottle collector is spoilt for choice: With a history that can be traced back to 1828, when Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain opened his first shop on Rue de Rivoli in Paris and covering almost two centuries, Guerlain has produced over 300 fragrances and an equally impressive number of bottle designs. Out of them all some are more worthy of mention either due to their beauty or their proliferation. One of them which covers both grounds is the "umbrella bottle", thus referenced due to its elegant shape that resembles a closed umbrella pointing downwards.
The "umbrella" bottle (officially known as "flacon de sac", bottle for the purse) started its illustrious career while head perfumer was Jacques Guerlain, in 1952 and continued under his grandson's, Jean Paul Guerlain's tenure as well. Its span of production covers easily more than 2 decades, until the end of the 1970s. All the perfumes that were circulating during that time-frame in extrait de parfum (pure parfum) were encased in this famous design, with the single exception of Nahéma (1976).
Despite several sellers on auction sites and Ebay stating it as Baccarat crystal, this design is assuredly not. The official Guerlain archives state three verreries producing moulds for it:
Pochet et du Courval, Brosse and Saint-Goabin -Desjonquères, all in the quarter of an ounce size. Rarely however is there a mark of which verrerie produced the flacon style in question, contrary to some other bottle designs in the line. Early specimens of the "umbrella bottle" have been sporting the name-label directly on the flacon, while later ones have a string from which two ends unite under a hang tage with the name of the perfume. Each of the extrait presentations had a different box, reflecting the themes and colour-schemes that inspired the original fragrances as well, as depicted above. From left to right, we can see the pink and green case with the two G interwined for Chant d'd’Arômes (1962); the zebra-printed Vol de Nuit presentation, inspired by far away travels and corresponding to the Saint-Exypéry travel novella of the same name; the chequed ivory of the legendary Jicky (1889); in silver tones lies the Jean Paul Guerlain creation inspired by Chagan's novel Chamade (1969); next there is the classic lithography of L'Heure Bleue (1912) and Mitsouko (1919); the iconic Shalimar is encased
in regal purple velvet, while the aqua-toned sleek box is for Parure, a plummy chypre creation by Jean Paul from 1974.
Ebay prices for these flacons fluctuate between $75-125, depending on the condition of the bottle and label as well as the existence or not (and subsequent condition of course) of the presentation box.
Less usual versions are those including a leather-pouch such as the one depicted for Liù (1929): It was a special edition for the USA only. (The very concept of this flacon is carrying it in the purse, hence "flacon de sac" being its official name in archives, yet the ideal of luxurious travel via American airlines ~very en vogue during the 1950s and 1960s~ was the source of inspiration for several 'travelling" paraphernalia of which some specimens are truly beautiful).
Much rarer and thus highly collectible is a special edition of Vol de Nuit which is commemorating the nuptials of Prince Rainier of Monaco to Grace Kelly in 1956. The box has a lovely inscription on the inside silken panel, dedicated to the marriage of the prince and the Hollywood actress, bearing the date of the wedding as well (Monaco, 15 Avril 1956). Guerlain always knew how to romanticize their art, allowing us to dream a little...
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Guerlain series, Fragrance history, Frequent Questions
thanks to Dominique Chauvet/Milan for original photography.