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Grasse (Municipality, Alpes-Maritimes, France)

Last modified: 2019-04-14 by ivan sache
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Flag of Grasse, two versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 25 January 2019

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Presentation of Grasse

The municipality of Grasse (50,677 inhabitants in 2016, therefore the 4th most populated municipality in the department; 4,444 ha; unofficial website) is located 15 km north of Cannes and 50 km west of Nice.
The municipality is composed of the historical downtown, of boroughs Saint-Jacques, Saint-François, Les Marronniers, Saint-Antoine, Saint-Claude, Saint-Mathieu, and Les Aspres, and of the hamlets of Le Plan, Magagnosc and Plascassier.

Grasse might have been named for Podium Grassum (Latin), subsequently Grand Puy (French), the big tuff rock on which the first urban nucleus was established around the cathedral.
In the 10th century, the inhabitants of Grasse expelled their feudal ruler. Two centuries later, Grasse was a free town ruled by a Consulate; at the end of the century, the Consulate established trade relationships with the wealthy Italian Republics of Genoa and Pisa. The Bishop of Antibes transferred there the see of the diocese in 1244; abolished in 1790, the Diocese of Grasse was incorporated into the Diocese of Nice in 1801.
Incorporated to the County of Provence but keeping its privileges, Grasse gained strategic importance after the incorporation of the County of Nice to Savoy in 1388.
Grasse was part of the department of Var until the incorporation of the County of Nice to France in 1860. The arrondissement of Grasse was then transferred to the newly formed department of Alpes-Maritimes. This explains why the department of Var is named for a river that no longer waters its territory.

"The skills related to perfume in Pays de Grasse: the cultivation of perfume plants, the knowledge and processing of natural raw materials, and the art of perfume composition" were inscribed in 2018 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, with the following description (text):

The skills related to perfume in Pays de Grasse cover three different aspects: the cultivation of perfume plants; the knowledge and processing of natural raw materials; and the art of perfume composition. The practice involves a wide range of communities and groups, brought together under the Association du Patrimoine Vivant du Pays de Grasse (Living Heritage Association of the Region of Grasse). Since at least the sixteenth century, the practices of growing and processing perfume plants and creating fragrant blends have been developed in Pays de Grasse, in a craft industry long dominated by leather tanning. Perfume plant cultivation involves a wide range of skills and knowledge, for instance pertaining to nature, soil, weather, biology, plant physiology and horticultural practices, as well as specific techniques such as extraction and hydraulic distillation methods. The inhabitants of Grasse have made these techniques their own and helped improve them. In addition to technical skills, however, the art also calls for imagination, memory and creativity. Perfume forges social bonds and provides an important source of seasonal labor. Related knowledge is mostly transmitted informally through a long learning process that still takes place primarily in perfumeries. In recent decades, however, there has been a growing interest in standardizing learning through formalized teaching.

Grasse is now considered as perfume's world capital; perfumery, which employs 10% of the town's active population, superseded tannery, which had been since the Middle Ages the main source of income in Grasse. In the 16th century, the tanners started to drip gloves in "perfumed water" to conceal the leather's strong smell, which did not please their wealthy customers. The dramatic increase in demand for perfume fostered the emergence of a specific industry; perfume flowers (rose, jasmine, tuberose, mimosa, violet...) were grown in wide gardens located outside the town. At the end of the 17th century, the court established in Versailles by Louis XIV became a main source of income for the guild of perfumers-glove-makers; powders and creams were soon replaced by fragrances so that the court became known as the "Perfumes' Court". A high-rank noble had to use a different perfume every day so that the court could "smell" his influential position.
The Grasse perfumers significantly improved the techniques of fragrance extraction from the 17th to the 19th century; they invented and improved enfleurage, a complex, gentle method particularily suitable for delicate flowers, such as tuberose and jasmine, which could not resist rougher extraction techniques.
The improvement of extraction technologies allowed a limited industrialization of perfumery in Grasse, which is still performed in small workshops and middle-sized factories, usually owned and managed by the same families for generations. Family transmission of skills and knowledge, associated with constant search for innovation, is one of the reaseons of the success of perfumery in Grasse. Areas planted with flowers in Grasse dramatically decreased in the 20th century due to the massive and sometimes uncontrolled urbanization of the French Riviera.
[Unique Fragrance]

Some 40 companies are involved in perfumery in the region of Grasse, including the three "big ones", Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard.

Fragonard (website) was founded in 1926 by Eugène Fuchs (1863-1940) in an historic factory originally established in 1782. Fuchs named the company as a tribute to the famous painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806, biography), born in Grasse as the son of Franççis Fragonard, the king's glovemaker-perfumer.
Under the lead of Jean-François Costa, a descendant of the founder, Fragonard experienced a significant growth in the 1970s. A modern factory known as the Flowers' Factory was inaugurated in 1986. The company is currently managed by Costa's three daughters, Anne, Agnès and Françoise.
Fragonard's first famous fragrance was named Moment Volé (Stolen Moment, 1926), after a painting by Fragonard. Other renowned fragrances are Rêve Indien, Belle de Nuit (1946; re-edited in 2001), Billet Doux (1950), Fragonard de Fragonard (1980), and Eau du Bonheur (2002).
[Fashions*Addict, 22 August 2016]

Galimard (website) was originally established in 1747 by Jean de Galimard, lord of Sé:ranon; member of the guild of glovemakers-perfumers, he supplied Louis XV's court with olive oil, pomades and perfumes he had created.
In 1950, Joseph Roux, the son of Siméon Roux, a veteran from the First World War who cultivated orange and jasmine for the Grasse perfumers, established the Perfumed Source distillery in the village of Gourdon and revived the Galimard perfumery in a manor located in Grasse's historical downtown.

Molinard (website) was originally established in 1849 by Hyacinthe Molinard as a shop selling "flowers' water", which soon attracted wealthy customers enjoying the French Riviera, such as Queen Victoria. Under the lead of Albert Sittler, Molinard established in the early 1900s a factory in a prestigious manor built in Provencal style (bastide).
Henri Bénard, Sittler's son-in-law, created in 1921 Habanita, Molinard's emblematic fragrance. This was the first perfume dedicated to women based on vetiver, in Oriental style. In the 1930s, Molinard commissioned noted artists to design its flasks; René Lalique created in 1932 a glass flask for Le Baiser du Faune, which was elected in 1939 (New York World Fair) the most beautiful flask in the world.
Molinard, led today by Célia Larouge-Bénard, representing the 5th generation in the founder's lineage, was awarded the "Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant" national certification. Only two other perfumers, Caron and Guerlain, were awarded this certification.

Ivan Sache, 26 February 2019

Flag of Grasse

The flag of Grasse, as seen in August 2000 in the historical downtown, is horizontally divided blue-white with the municipal arms all over.

The arms of Grasse were first described in the 13th century, most probably as a seal: "A Paschal lamb holding a long cross to which a standard is attached, the whole surmounted by a multicolored Count's coronet". From the 15th to the 20th century, several charges were added to the arms, in a whimsical manner (see below). The arms fixed and used at the end of the 20th century are "Azure a Paschal lamb argent holding a cross of the same to which is attached a forked banner of the same charged with a crosslet gules. The shield surmounted by a mural crown and surrounded dexter by a branch of olive and sinister by a branch of jasmine, tied beneath the shield by a star argent. A scroll argent inscribed with the motto "Dei gratia consules grassae".

The Armorial Général (I, 219; bl. II, 1267) shows for "The Town of Grasse": "Azure a Paschal lamb argent haloed or three roundels gules holding a cross or to which is attached a forked banner Argent a cross gules throughout" (image). The town of Grasse willingly required the registration of its arms with the Armorial Général; in May 1697, Roux, head of the local registration office, acknowledged the paiement of 110 pounds and 30 sols. To prevent legal threats to the burghers who would not have registered their personal arms, the town signed a convention with the lawyer Jacques Silvy, King's Commissioner in Provence for the Armorial Général: on 9 November 1697, Honoré de Puget, lord of Clermond, "in charge of the community of the Town of Grass", signed with Jacques Silvy, "Procurator General in charge", the right of registration for 120 personal arms, purchased for 2,820 pounds. The guilds, brotherhoods and religious foundations were excluded from the agreement. Additional costs increased the fee to 2,880 pounds, which was validated on 19 March 1698 by the Municipal Council and paid on 31 March 1698 to the aforementioned Roux by the representatives of the community, that is, the Mayor and two Consuls. The Armorial records list 239 private registrations, 99 made willingly and 137 forced. Excluding 18 clergymen, the 218 remaining registrations include the 120 agreed registrations and another 98 made after legal threat. Oddly enough, the arms of the Mayor and of the Treasurer do not appear to have been registered.
[Pierre-Jean Claudo. 1977. L'application de l'édit de novembre 1696 dans la région grassoise. Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 15:1, 49-73]

Louis de Bresc (Armorial des communes de Provence, 1866 [bjs66]) presents some variations in the design of the arms of Grasse. Robert de Brianson (L'&eacut;tat et le nobiliaire de la Provence, 1693), Jacques Chevillard (18th century) and Claude-François Achard (Dictionnaire de la Provence et du Comtat Venaissin, 1787-1788) add "three fleurs-de-lis or, two in chief one in base" to the shield. Eusèbe Girault de Saint-Fargeau (Dictionnaire géographique, historique industriel et commercial de toutes les communes de la France, 1846-1847) and Victor Adolphe Malte-Brun (La France Illustrée, 1884) place the lamb on a base vert and describe the cross as or and the banner as gules. Henri Traversier & Léon Vaisse (Armorial national de la France, 1860) follow the Armorial Général.
During the First Empire, the banner is omitted ("cross without banner"), the lamb stands on a "base or charged sinister with a branch of jasmine proper in bend crossed in saltire". The shield has a "canton proper of a second-rank town".

The lamb is locally known as the "five-legged lamb", the cross' staff forming the fifth leg. It is traditionally associated with the old tannery industry or presented as the old emblem of the cloth-makers' guild. The lamb also recalls the Christian religion and traditional sheep breeding, which was common around Grasse until the 1990s. The Latin motto, which read "Grasse Consuls by the Grace of God", was already used on the arms in the 15th century.
[Chloé Rosatti-Marzetti. 2013. L'identité d'une ville au travers de ses artefacts : Grasse, de 1860 à nos jours : étude de la co-construction d'un imaginaire touristique et d'une identité locale. Ph.D. Thesis (Anthropology), Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis]

The logo adopted in 2015, and used on a white flag (photo, re-incorporated the traditional representation of the Paschal lamb with the cross and banner, in golden yellow, "to privilege the purity of the lines". The lamb is surrounded by a big blue "G" letter, which symbolizes the whole town. The "G" is also used on the signals that indicate the pedestrian route in the historic downtown. The crown, which was not featured on the first logo, appears, in golden yellow, above the "G", therefore crowning the whole town and not only the lamb.
The grey and golden yellow colors, as well as the Century Old Style Std font type, emphasize "refined elegance".
The baseline "Le goût de l'essentiel" (The Taste of Essential), featured on the stand-alone logo between the "G" and the town's name, is, fortunately, omitted on the flag.
[Municipal website]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 26 January 2019

Vertical flags of Grasse

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Vertical flags of Grasse - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 26 August 2000

Vertical flags were used in Grasse in August 2000.

Olivier Touzeau, 26 August 2000

Former flag of Grasse


Former flag of Grasse - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 24 January 2019

In 2002, the municipality of Grasse adopted a new logo, which was used on a white flag (photo). The logo featured, in a stylized way, the Paschal lamb with the cross and banner from the arms.

Olivier Touzeau, 24 January 2019