Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy, and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt

Overview

The art of modern fragrance-making owes much to practices developed in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians attached great importance to perfumes and cosmetics, which men and women wore to make themselves attractive and alluring, to restore vitality and good health, and as a means of venerating the gods and of negotiating a passage to the realm of the hereafter. In this lavishly illustrated, oversized book, Lise Manniche looks at the role played by scents and cosmetics in ancient Egyptian society and discusses their ...
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Overview

The art of modern fragrance-making owes much to practices developed in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians attached great importance to perfumes and cosmetics, which men and women wore to make themselves attractive and alluring, to restore vitality and good health, and as a means of venerating the gods and of negotiating a passage to the realm of the hereafter. In this lavishly illustrated, oversized book, Lise Manniche looks at the role played by scents and cosmetics in ancient Egyptian society and discusses their preparation—in some cases providing actual recipes.Manniche details three categories of ingredients used by the Egyptians to make fragrances: plants, including cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, and mint; gums and resins, particularly myrrh and frankincense; and oils and fats ranging from almond oil to ox fat. "In order [for a scent] to achieve fame," Manniche writes, "the finished product had to have an aura of rarity, of exclusiveness, and of the divine. The more exotic the ingredients, the more valued the commodity; the more exquisite its presentation, the greater the appeal. In this way, the visual and olfactory arts combined to make small objects of the greatest luxury appreciated not only in Egypt, but all over the ancient world."Drawing on Arabic and other sources, Manniche explores the application of perfumes in ritual and on social occasions, and examines the erotic connotations of scent in Egyptian art and poetry. Fragrant remedies, the central element in ancient medicine, are fully discussed. Finally, she investigates the widespread use of cosmetics, as revealed in wall paintings and painted sculptures. The book features a hundred color photographs, taken by Werner Forman, of objects in the world's most celebrated museum collections. Exquisite cosmetic containers in the form of birds and animals, reliefs representing kings and priests perfuming images of deities, and lifelike mummy masks displaying make-up are among the images represented.During the past decade, the West has seen a revival of traditional skills, particularly in the areas of spirituality and healing. This stunning book introduces an abundance of once highly prized skills to be reacquired and ancient products to be sampled anew.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anyone interested in the art of fragrance will be captivated by this book. . . . Reading it, one can almost smell the ancient Egyptian perfume. It's all sweetness and delight. Manniche's genuine love for her subject is evident on every page. This book is a treat for the mind, the eye, and the nose."—Marie-Paule Vanlathem, Scientific American. January/February, 2000.

"This publication introduces the ingredients used in ancient Egyptian perfumes and incense, the sources of and trade in these materials, and their social and religious significance to the Egyptians. It is beautifully illustrated with color images of ancient cosmetic utensils and scenes from Egyptian tombs and Islamic manuscripts."—Denise M. Doxey, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Religious Studies Review, Vol. 27, No. 2, April 2001

"Perfume was so important a part of ancient Egyptian life that it is remarkable that there are no other monographs on the subject. Noted author Manniche studies the role of perfume and scent in Egyptian society as medicine, aphrodisiac, incense, and cosmetic. . . . Scholarly but readable."—Library Journal. March 1, 2000.

"If you have ever been fascinated by the beauty of literally thousands of extant containers produced by the ancient Egyptians for holding cosmetics, unguents, oils, incense, etc., and wondered about the actual composition of all of these varied substances and their importance to the dwellers along the Nile in antiquity, this beautifully illustrated book is for you. Lise Manniche has done extensive research on the aforementioned substances and Sacred Luxuries is certain to stand as the definitive account of the subject for a long time to come."—David Moyer, KMT. Spring, 2000.

"A lavishly illustrated 'must have' treasure trove of knowledge, enjoyment and inspiration."—M. A. Murray-Pierce, Fragrance Forum. Winter/Spring 2000.

"Manniche gives us an excellent look at this fascinating yet unfamiliar aspect of Ancient Egyptian society. A lot of careful and hard work has gone into producing this beautiful book, which is recommended for those interested in fragrances, beauty care and, of course, Ancient Egypt."—The Reviewer, June 2000

Library Journal
Two unique new titles examine aspects of the culture of ancient Egypt. Paintings of people wearing incense cones on their wigs, sniffing flowers, and anointing just about anything; palettes for preparing cosmetics; and quantities of both romantic and religious literature all show the major role played by scent in Egyptian culture. Perfume was so important a part of ancient Egyptian life that it is remarkable that there are no other monographs on the subject. Noted author Manniche (Egyptology, Univ. of Copenhagen) studies the role of perfume and scent in Egyptian society as medicine, aphrodisiac, incense, and cosmetic. For the adventurous, Manniche even includes recipes from a variety of classical sources as well as Egyptian manuscripts. Recommended for large collections on the history of perfumes, aromatherapy, and folk medicine as well as general collections seeking scholarly but readable material on ancient Egyptian lifestyles. ~ Unlike other ancient civilizations, the Egyptians had large gold deposits within the boundaries of their lands. Esteemed late professor M ller (Egyptology, Univ. of Munich) examines the place of gold in Egyptian life in all its aspects from mining to the creation of vessels and jewelry. Thiem's photographs are dramatic and sumptuous, exuding the sensuous quality of the artifacts; full- and double-page illustrations allow detailed examination of the workmanship for many items. Standard addenda such as a dynastic chronology are supplemented by an unusual but very helpful glossary of "Colored Stones and Their Sources" and a pictorial list of three dozen of the most common hieroglyphs. An excellent table of contents helps to make up for the regrettable lack of anindex. Recommended for all libraries with an interest in Egyptian art history.--Mary Morgan Smith, Northland P.L., Pittsburgh Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Marie-Paule Vanlathem
The frontpiece shows a scene from a guilded shrine featuring King Tutankhamun pouring scent into his spouse's palm. This delicate and affectionate picture sets the tone for the volume. Reading it, one can almost smell the ancient Egyptian perfume. It's all sweetness and delight. Manniche's genuine love for her subject is evident on every page. This book is a treat for the mind, the eye, and the nose.
Scientific American Discovering Archaeology
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801437205
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 1,277,580
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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