Thursday, February 21, 2013

Le Galion Fragrances: Perfume History

Le Galion, Parfumeur a Paris, is among those esoteric fragrance houses that should one not be dabbling in vintage perfume hunting they're blissfully oblivious of. Established in the entre deux guerres it gained a popularity that was disproportionate to the value of their perfumes, which are quite lovely. But why the strange name?

Le Galion, French for galleon, is a large warship or trader sailing ship with 3 or more masts (lateen-rigged on the after masts and square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast), whose dominance of the seas during the 15th to 18th centuries resulted in what we recognize today in the brand's logo.

The firm was supposedly founded by Prince Murat, but it was perfumer Paul Vacher who created the Le Galion fragrances, trademarked in 1936. He worked at Guerlain, one of the oldest perfume houses in the world, among other perfume houses. (Vacher is best known for his parts in the creations of vintage Miss Dior for Christian Dior in 1947 with Jean Carles, and Arpège for Lanvin in 1927 with André Fraysse, as well as his Diorling, again for Dior in the 1960s).

The fragrances by Le Galion are ladylike, graceful and elegant from what I have experienced, typical of the 1930s and 1950s tastes, with good stability over the years, a concern for those of us who seek vintage perfumes.
Le Galion had created and distributed 24 fragrances by the beginning of the 1990s, with Sortilège their most-beloved and well-known specimen.

The fragrances by Le Galion Parfumeur a Paris:

1937 Champs de Mai
1937 Bourrasque
1937 Indian Summer
1937 Brumes
1937 Gardenia
1937 Jasmin
1937 La Violette
1937 Tubereuse
1937 Shake Hands
1937 Sortilege

1949 Frac
1952 Snob
1953 Cub
1953 Whip
1972 Eau Noble
1978 Megara
Special for Gentlemen (unknown date)

The Le Galion company distributed samples in department stores in the form of tiny bottles, the size of which didn't extend beyond the first phalanx of my forefinger. These cute gems had the same little gold colored cap with the trademark ship etched into it, and a foil paper label, scented with the corresponding fragrance. Today they can be occasionally found on Ebay and Etsy.
The wonderfully retro illustrations for their fragrances date from the 1950s.

Pics via tumblr, etsy, ebay, hprints and


  1. Miss Heliotrope23:11

    They are nice pictures - I like it when companies try to be stylish - & more when they succeed.

    It is fun to play with not just a nice scent, but nice packaging.

  2. I have never seen this line here - ebay for sure I I want to try but ... I adore the advertising posters they did back then!
    Sooo stylish and in many ways - alot better than the "photo -shopped" ads we get in the magazines these days! LOL
    We have had a touch of rain yesterday and its not so hot but - they say its hotting up again - roll on Autumn I say!
    I will tell my daughter about that new Alien even if its not big on the Jasmin and will tell her the other two you suggested Helg! Thankyou !

  3. annemariec00:47

    Those ads are magic, especially the 'Special for Gentlemen' ad. The hands behind the back and the little sweep of the dainty foot are hugely suggestive of the coquettish little conversation that is about to happen! The designs look a bit like Rene Gruau but they are not, are they?

  4. C,

    indeed! I wish they were still in production. and followed by illustrations like these.

  5. M,

    I suppose only a very old stockist/warehouse would have them. Or an estate sale. I got mine via Ebay.
    You're absolutely right re: visuals. The illustrations are endlessly stylish compared to Photoshoped ads. Many of today's ads lack imagination too, they're just "love story" or "fashion accessory" or "seduction arsenal". Rare is the bright & original idea & execution.

    Hope my recs will intrigue her! :-)

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Amc,

    it is as you say. That's a very cute one, I agree.

    The signature in the illustrations is different, if you notice. Not Gruau. It's Claude Maurel.

  8. annemariec21:31

    Ah, thanks, I could not quite read the signature. Something new to explore!

  9. Try Ebay Germany for FB. I bought Snob, Tubereuse, Brumes and Gardenia a few years go - all not expensive and great scents, too.

  10. Beautiful posters and beautiful sounding scents - what a shame they have all seemingly gone the way of so many a gem.

    Thank you for this slice of the perfumed past.

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy.

  11. I have a vintage bottle of Sortilege, given to me by a friend. I don't know how old it is, and what it's supposed to smell like. It's a full bottle, with the box. It's sort of stanky, but I can detect some floral notes. We'll see what the dry down brings!

  12. Anonymous02:16

    I acquired the beautiful lime green "Special for Gentleman" picture from my mother-in-law who passed away. It looks like an original as its signed on the back. Does anyone know hat would be the value of it if I sold it on EBay?

  13. Anonymous15:59

    Can anyone help? I have an original miniature collection of 10 parfums still in original box and bottles unopened. Included are: Sortlilege, Snob, Bourrasque, Brumes, Gardenia, Tubereuse, Jasmine, La Rose, Lily Of The Valley, and La Violette. I think bottles are an ounce with gold labels.


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