Who is Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg ?
More portraits…. Today, it’s Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg who is expert to the Versailles Court of Appeals, also specialized in Ancient Perfumery of the XX century, but is as well a passionate of perfumery items, to whom I will give the floor. Inexhaustible on the subject, he has always a story to tell you, to show you his last acquisition, or a pending book… Nothing intimidates him !
It’s after an emotional shock, during a family lunch, that Jean-Marie Martin-Hattemberg will become a great, unanismously recognized in the world collector, and be an expert on the heritage of the XXcentury perfumery. Be ready to enter the world of the ancient perfumery !
How this passion started ?
It is, around the Sunday meal that he was told to look at the robe of a generous wine, or at the amber colour of a cognac, through the clear and shimmering cristal that would filter out of a Baccarat decanter. But what was more surprising for him, were that the perfume flacons of the same glass-maker would end up into the dustbin with any hesitation ! “As a young adolescent, then, I could not understand it Why should a cristal decanter be more precious than a perfume flacon ?” he says.
So I decided to start a collection of these flacons, that were considered to be frivolous and unworthy to survive ! My love for the beautiful, my critical and sharp eye will improve and evolve, from my early age, by joining my parents at the auction sales rooms. They are assets that help me today, for the expertise of counterfeits or copies. At that time, I became more sensitive to glass and cristal, and I improved my konwledge, by visiting the glass-making factories in the Valley of the Bresle, in Normandy, the Baccarat glass makers and the ones of Karlsbad in Czechia.
Tell us about your first acquisitions
« My first fragrances happen to be L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko from Guerlain, rescued ultimately from a box that was to be thrown away and be condemned to be lost for ever. Otherwise, it’s the « Meplat Deux figurines Flacon from René Lalique (1912) that I bought with my pocket money at the age of 17. To day, my collection counts between 2000 flacons and 4000 items that consists in powder boxes, lipsticks, publicity items, and of course flacons, without forgetting giant publicity flacons of great quality.
My personal collection of flacons is not only a pleasure for myself but also represents a working tool to be able to organize exhibitions with a theme on perfume, or to give courses on the history of perfumes in some parisian schools of art and design. I never stop as I love to tell precise details where I discovered my purchases, along with the story attached to them.
It’s a magical moment when you open a flacon : an elegant flacon, of course, a little bit aged, that invades suddently the space and takes you back to the previous century. It is suprising, sometime a few still smell good, such as Cyclamen from Elizabeyth Arden.Some other flacons come out as pairs, which is a kind of a collector’s neurosis, motivated only by my decorative outlook .Often I happen to find the flacon and it’s box in different sites.It was the case with La Fête des Roses from Caron(1949) that I bought 50 francs from a tramp, at the Porte de la Villette in Paris , in 1979. Two years later, one of my friend found the box decorated with the original silk pink petals , in a maroccan souk in Cairo. The « La Renommée d’Orsay « from René Lalique in 1922 , along with it’s box were found, in 1999, into a trunk filled with linen, that had not been opened since 1935. More, an antique dealer offered me a powder box belonging to the famous writer Colette. He had founded three of them, in a hairdresser shop, in the town of Sens. « It was then, an intense emotion and joy.
I reckon that a collection is not to be reserved to oneself only, it must be shared. That is why I like to share it generously with the perfume lovers and I enjoy advising fans specially for the auction sales, that I conduct at the Hotel Drouot, in Paris. When I am asked how I find my flacons, I reply « Objets come naturally to you when you are longing for them. « In fact, I buy after an esthetical shock. I keep an eye on the prices of the market but the price of a flacon is not my first criteria. I am more careful of the design and the noble signature . When I am asked about my favourite flacons, I say that it is « La Renommée « from the Orsay perfumes created by René Lalique, “Vierge Fole” from Gabilla, in a Baccarat cristal, “Ramsès II” from Bichara in a Saint Louis cristal, and the vinegar small decanter Ottoman Jicky from Guerlain, manufactured by Pochet & Du Courval.
Who are your favourite glass-makers ?
You will easily understand that the Baccarat flacons have drawn my curiosity ever since my early age, and remains still today present in my collection. I am fascinated by their top quality along with the creativity.
Baccarat is not trapped in a style. It is continously renewed as this glass-maker site remains a place where artists and multi facets designers can express themselves.It is Georges Chevalier, the artistic Director of Baccarat,(1894-1987) who was responsable for the modern aera that exists since the International Exhibition of the Decorative Arts in 1925.There is also, Julien Viard(1883-1938) and Lucien Gaillard (1865-1942 ) who specially interest me.
Julien Viard was a sculptor and a glass- maker . He fascinates me for his moorish, gothic and Art deco inspirations, for his multi-skilled style , his capability to transcript the perfume in an egyptian style, such as the flacon « Sphinx d’Or « from the Ramsès house. I am very fond of one of his masterpiece, “L’Amour dans le Cœur” from Arys perfume.
Regarding Lucien Gaillard, I appreciate his work of the Art Nouveau, the Art Deco and his introduction to the japonese style enamels and lacquer in his manufacturing of flacons. “Sauvageonne” and “L’Heure de Minuit” from the Clamy perfume are my two favourites.
Tell me about your career
After 25 years in banking for the International trade section, I decided in 2009, to become independent. It is then, at this time that I dedicated myself to my passion for items of the Ancient Perfumery.
Contrary to Regine de Robien whom I respect enormously, I am not an merchant expert. On the other hand, I continued her work that I popularized. I work only by appointment. More, I give a ten years guarantee on items, that I have on my catalogs and are sold at auction sales.
This is how I became the only one expert to the Versailles Court of Apeals for the last 30 years . Today, I organize two auction sales with Olivier Couteau-Bécarie and Lombail & Teucquam, in Paris. “The Floralies du Parfum” in the spring and “The Saturnales du Parfum” in tha autumn are the two parisian meetings. A whole community of collectors without forgetting various private museums, in possession of already fabulous collections, come regularly.
For nearly 20 years now, I have been the American Association IPBA correspondent (International Perfume Bottle Association) The purpose of this association is to protect the heritage of the perfumery and to favour friendship through themes of collections. A very cool atmosphere prevails in the association.
Today, the american collectors are attracted by the hatmakers’ perfumes such as Lily Dashé or the Calot Sisters. It is the trend just now, and the collectors respond to it, until they react to a new tendancy of the market
My passion allows me to travel to the country of perfumery and I , am never tired of listening to the numerous stories around the flacons and the brands, of discovering the various actors such as the glass-makers, the designers , the pakaging makers which make me dreaming and enrich me, the whole time. My research does not stop here as I keep haunting the National Archives, the Paris Archives, the town councils and the the old paper fairs so to extract out from the forgiveness by buying documents, adverts, drawings of prototypes and commercial catalogs of brands ! It is a rightful give-backtoday, as various brands ask me advice i marketing and legal advice or also as documentalist and archivist. It’s this last activity which allows me to write and publish luxury books on perfume and beauty objects of the twentieth century.
Who are the collectors of today ?
Today, 80%of the collectors are men between 35 and 80 years old. They are essentially French, Americans, Swiss, Dutchmen, Chinese, Quataris or also Canadians, working for most of them in the medical field. It’s a pity that the professlonal actors of the perfume industry do not feel concerned…and even show disinterest, even a rather disregard …
On one side, the french collector is more conservative and stays a lover of it’s heritage.On the other hand, the object which does look at first like flacon, is very much apreciated, in Europe. The signature is not automatically a criteria of purchase.
Finally, one can say that the arrival of the sales on the web where the prices are higher to the one of the market, without the guarantee from an expert does not facilitate the situation. They are mainly collectors that are intimidated by the conventional auction sales and are not aware of the sites, such as flea markets, garage sales, antiques fairs… These collectors are often compulsive, buy in quantity more than in quality.
What is the tendancy of the market ?
Today, there is a price decline… So it’s time to start an attractive and esthetical collection- or to continue to improve it. In view of the sales that I conduct, the Guerlain brands (very appreciated by the French), Christian Dior (a house that watches out and protects her heritage, and buys), Chanel (an epiphenomenon) and Nina Ricci (lots of passionates) draw all the attention to the initiated public. While for the ancient perfumery it’ s the historical and aristic rich brands which win the palme d4or… One can cite the Volnay house, Gabilla, Isabey (specialy since the relaunch of the brand in 2001) and Felix Millot. After a rush on the Lancôme brandthe latter has declined altough it has beautiful flacons. But let’s not forget that the contemperary perfumery with the three winners : Lolita Lempika, Thierry Mugler, and Jean-Paul Gaultier who focus the attention of their fans !
Thanks Bettina for sharing such a wonderful interview. Jean-Marie is a great ambassador for perfume bottle collectors around the world with his knowledge, passion and continued research and promotion of the fragrance industry. He is an inspiration to the members of the International Perfume Bottle Association. Kind regards, Jeffrey Sanfilippo -IPBA President