Thursday, January 3, 2008

René the Florentine

Catherine de' Medici arrived in France in 1533. (The Italian niece of Pope Clement was engaged to Henry II.) She brought her two best male friends along with her to France -- her astrologer and her perfumer.

Her perfumer was Renato Bianco, a diabolical genius when it came to elixirs . Renato became known as René and soon set up a very exclusive perfume shop near the Pont au Change thanks to the financial backing of the royals. Perfumer René the Florentine enjoyed dealing in potions for romances -- he dealt in new romance, seduction and desire. He also participated in the drama of dying romances, the very dead romance, and romantic rivalry. Wealthy patrons would come in by appointment to secure a scent to capture the heart of a new love interest, or to buy a deadly fast acting poison to get rid of a tired old husband, a rival, or a dull former lover who simply would not go away.

The shop is long gone, but Parisian guides sometimes refer to it on tours that pass near this bridge.

"I'm walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping

Did I hear someone tell a lie?
Did I hear someone's distant cry?
I spoke like a child; you destroyed me with a smile
While I was sleeping" -- Bob Dylan