“I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year and so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already, it will bring good luck.”, Chanel
For me it is always a surprise to learn that things we know and use everyday have a Russian connection. Here is another story. Back in 1920s in France…
But lets transfer ourselves to Moscow, the year – 1881 and in a French family of Beaux a son is born named Ernest. His grandmother, Jeanne-Cléophée Beaux had come to Russia at the beginning of the 1840s, married Napoleon’s soldier Jean-Baptist ( Жан-Батист) Beaux, who was captured, settled in Russia and became an artist in the troupe at Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg. They descendants stayed in Russia until the Revolution of 1917.
It is no wonder that Ernest is mentioned as ”Muscovite” (the person who was born and lived in Moscow for many years). His Russian was perfect and only his name gave away his origins. Ernest completed his primary education and from 1898–1900 apprenticed as laboratory technician in the soap works of A. Rallet and company in Moscow where his father, Edouard Beaux (Эдуард Бо as he was known in Russia), was employed as a chief perfumer and member of Rallet’s board of directors.
I have found Ernest listed in All Moscow 1916 address book living at Tikhvinskiy 9, not far away from the premises of the company.
After his obligatory 2 years military service in France, Ernest returned to Moscow in 1902, where he started his perfumery training at Rallet and managed to crate few perfumes, some of which were the success. While born and raised in Russia, Ernest Beaux’s French heritage brought him into the French army again in 1914 and, while it was generally expected that this war would last no more than a few months, he was not released from military service until 1919. After the war he settled in Paris but continued to have a relationship with the former Rallet employees at La Boca.
With little prospect of being promoted in France, Ernest Beaux tried to use his contacts from emigrated Russian nobility to get new projects. In 1920, with the help of Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, a companion of Coco Chanel, he arranged a meeting in Cannes late in the summer of 1920, where he presented his current and former works to Mlle. Chanel. The rest is history and the timeless and unforgettable smell of Chanel No 5.
Now we will come back to year 1899, St Petersburg. A boy named Konstantin Mikhailovich Verigin (Веригин Константин Михайлович) was born on 25 January that year. In France he will be known as Constantin Weriguine, who worked closely with Ernest Beaux at House of Chanel.
Konstantin came from an old noble family of Verigins who had very close family links with Tatiscshev, Naryshkin, Ogarev and whose men selected a military career in army and navy for the last few centuries as a profession. However, Konstantin was in love with flowers and not guns and military clothes.
Verigin’s family tree and nobility has been researched by historians. The information about the family can be found in Fund 1343 at RGIA and in Russian Genealogical book covering mostly titled aristocracy published by Dolgorukiy in 1854-57 (part 4, page 330).
His father died young and Konstantin with the rest of the family moved to Yalta, Crimea where he finished his secondary education. He loved music and poetry but most of all aromas. Revolution and Civil war pushed Konstantin to join the White Army and in November 1920 he migrated to Istanbul with his sister and mother. His brother Mikhail stayed in Russia and never been reconnected with the family.
I find Konstantin’s name and details in the database “White movement in Russia“.
Then there was Constantinople, Yugoslavia and finally at the end of 1921 he get visa to France. Here he finishes the university and through family contacts gets the employment at House of Chanel and meets the one and only Ernest Beaux.
“Thirty years of my life are connected with Ernest Beaux. He was for me a respected teacher and a close friend. Thirty years I studied and worked beside him, created and made revisions; his way of understanding the art of perfume left in me a deep impression “, said Konstantin in his memoirs.
Konstantin died in 1982 and is buried at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery. The cemetery is digitised and photographed and information can be found at http://www.findagrave.com/. The cemetery is 73% photographed. Constantine’s burial is not at this stage.
Souvenirs et Parfums: Mémoires d’un parfumeur (Memories and Perfumes: Memories of a Perfumer, 1965), Constantin Weriguine
“Благоуханность. Воспоминания парфюмера.” ,Веригин Константин Михайлович
History of Rallet company in Moscow ( with photos)