Bringing Artistry Back to the Perfume Bottle

Christian Dior famously said, “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.” But what about the bottle it comes in? Perfume bottles, sadly, generally aren’t the elegant symbols they once were—today, they’re objects of mass consumerism relegated to the fluorescent-lit sphere of duty-free airport shops. That cultural context is exactly what makes the exquisite works by ceramics and glass design students at the Jerusalem-based Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, now on display at Maison Gerard in New York, so captivating.
These are perfume bottles, yes, but not like any you’ve seen before: they’re ornate glass masterpieces, mini works of art crafted with with mechanical precision. Some are dark, highly decorative and romantic, as if they were lifted out of a Russian fairytale. Others are minimalist, like Esther Anavian’s elegant globe-like Perfume Bottle (2014). Some of the works aren’t immediately identifiable as perfume bottles, as in Maayan Ben-Yona’s hollow egg-shaped Perfume Bottle (2014) or Lea Ben-Ami’s fanciful Summer Seeds Cluster of Perfume Vessels (2014), whose design was inspired by the groundsel flower. The design is beautiful and practical, with a cluster of tiny perfume vessels that can be plucked from the central structure—not to mention that the work doubles as a piece of jewelry. Matan Divald’s The Pharmakon Perfume Bottle (2014), with a horizontal body and a lid that resembles a pair of deer's antlers, looks like a more straightforward bottle design, but the work is rich with symbolism, inspired by a line from Plato’s Phaedrus.
As the gallery’s managing partner, Benoist F. Drut—who has works by Bezalel graduates in his own personal collection—told Glass Quarterly, “I was thrilled with the work and find it quite beautiful … I really thought the students should benefit from this. So we’ve priced to sell for $980 and $1500 depending on the size and intricacy of the design.” Sales benefit the Academy, with one work at a higher price point: Dror Rosenberg’s molded and blown glass Perfume Bottle (2014), the winning piece in a Lalique production that’s set to be sold in the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
Works by the Ceramics & Glass Design Department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design are on view at Maison Gerard, New York, Dec. 15, 2014—Jan. 15, 2015.