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“Feminine Beauty” Showcase

In the forests of the Bauges massif, cyclamens naturally bloom during the beautiful season. Quickly in the 19th century, the idea of picking a small bouquet as a souvenir of an excursion gains popularity. A trade then gets organized in Aix-les-Bains where vendors set up shop on the square in front of the thermal baths, with a basket in hand, to sell their small bouquets to the spa guests.

La Beauté au FémininKiosks follow, then florists also join in, and eventually, cyclamens soon adorn every street corner.

They are also found on various objects (posters, fans, invitation cards, postcards, or even newspaper and magazine covers).

In 1905, Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII of England who succeeded his mother Victoria, “declares war on feathered hats” and particularly on egret and paradise plume trimmings. The queen is willing to tolerate ostrich feathers, which are obtained without the death of the bird, but finds a fashion that can only be satisfied by the massacre of innocent birds very cruel. While in Paris, the fashionable ladies resist, in leisure cities, their feathered hats are gradually criticized, since they also obstruct the view of spectacles.

Consensus soon asserts itself in Aix-les-Bains where the feather is abandoned, except for ostrich feathers, and elegance then unfolds on the theme of the floral hat, in a way, to honor the many Britons who frequent the city following Queen Victoria’s three visits in 1885, 1887, and 1890.

On August 30, 1905, the fashion attached to this native plant is definitively consecrated with the “Cyclamen Festival” organized by the Casino of Aix-les-Bains. On that day, everyone is required to wear this flower, on the bodice for ladies, on the lapel for gentlemen. After a contest of flowered canes and umbrellas, a Cyclamen Polka is played in the gardens of the Casino, then the Aix-les-Bains ballet company performs the Waltz of the Cyclamens in the salons. The festival ends, of course, with a shower of cyclamens.

Furthermore, the monks of the Hautecombe Abbey extract a perfume from it, which is sold as a souvenir of the city, in small vials or bottles, in the same way that it is done today with Mimosa in the southeast of France.

In this showcase, among other objects of the feminine beauty necessities and some fashion engravings, we have gathered a lovely collection of these small cyclamen bottles, which you will also find in various places in the Château as a tribute to the flowery and bucolic character of the surroundings of Aix-les-Bains that people sought during the Belle Époque.

At the heart of this showcase, we have also placed an engraving of a round of croquet game played by ladies, as a nod to the game provided for guests to enjoy the gardens of Château Brachet in a playful manner.