"At a time when most perfumers did not think of bottles as anything but a simple container, my ancestors quickly understood the subtle relationship that linked the bottle and its precious contents," Jean-Paul Guerlain wrote in 1997 in the colossal reference book, "Guerlain Bottles Since 1828". Guerlain is well known for its great variation in bottle designs, and no other perfume house can boast such a prolific output of different bottles. As a rule, each fragrance has come with its own unique bottle to give it a visual identity.

In 2016, however, Guerlain phases out several of its individual feminine and masculine bottle designs, replacing them with uniform standard bottles. As a consequence of this standardisation, there's very little left of Robert Granai's renowned bottle designs in the Guerlain catalogue, except the Chamade bottle, the masculine Eau de Toilette bottle, and the Aqua Allegoria bottle.

Robert Granai, sculptor by profession, was the architect of Guerlain's entire bottle design look in the Jean-Paul Guerlain era and the one to supply a masculine range of bottles to the brand. He worked as the company's bottle designer for three decades, his last creation being the Mahora bottle in 2000. He began his career at Guerlain by making plaster sculptures for the shops' window displays, and he collaborated with Raymond Guerlain on the creation of the Chamade bottle just before the latter died. Below, you'll find descriptions of fourteen of Robert Granai's most important bottles for Guerlain.

The Chamade bottle (1969). The Chamade bottle has the shape of a seashell reminiscent of Botticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus". In classical antiquity, the seashell was a metaphor for a woman's vulva. It has also been noted that the bottle looks like a heart turned upside down and pierced by the arrow-shaped stopper, a symbol of emotional surrender, but "Raymond would have hated the idea of a heart," argued Robert Granai who participated in the design process: "In his Shalimar bottle he wanted to capture the sensuality of women, whereas Chamade expresses the liberation of women and the sexual revolution." The Chamade bottle is still in production. Read more about Chamade

The Eau de Guerlain bottle (1974). The original Eau de Guerlain bottle, inspired by rough stones formed by the erosion of water in a stream, was Robert Granai's first solo project on his long list of marvellous Guerlain bottles. It was made in both a splash and an atomizer version. Since 1992, Eau de Guerlain has been sold in the bee atomizer bottle. Read more about Eau de Guerlain

The Parure bottle (1975). The Parure bottle, sculpted after a flaming sea view sunset, was among the most adventurous and complex of the Guerlain presentations, "with a slightly outrageous stopper," as Jean-Paul Guerlain put it, a three-dimensional, wavy volume almost dwarfing the bottle by its size. It was only produced during a six-year period after which the standard quadrilobe bottle took over, until the Parfum version of Parure was discontinued in 1989. Read more about Parure

The Nahéma bottle (1979). The alchemist's bottle of Nahéma with the pedestal and ball-shaped stopper was a perfect design way ahead of its time. The somewhat technical look was meant to communicate how elaborate and far removed from any rose cliché the perfume was, "a concentrate of rose in its pure state," as Jean-Paul Guerlain declared. The almost invisible teardrop in the body of the Nahéma bottle symbolized pure emotion, something which Jean-Paul Guerlain always believed was the defining factor of a grand perfume (and perhaps referred to the passionate personality of Nahema, the princess). After 1992, the alchemist bottle was replaced by the standard quadrilobe bottle, until the Parfum version of Nahéma was discontinued in 2015. Read more about Nahéma

The Jardins de Bagatelle bottle (1983). For the Jardins de Bagatelle bottle, Robert Granai had the task of uniting the eighties' sharp suits with Guerlain's romantic ideas. His solution was to construct it as a stylized, shoulder-draped "pillar" shaped like the classical Greek caryatids that hold up a portico, the first-ever straight-lined perfume presentation for a feminine Guerlain. To begin with, the bottle had a smoked lid, typical of the eighties but later replaced by a transparent one, while the EdP was dressed in a deluxe gold case. In 2013, the Jardins de Bagatelle bottle was replaced by the bee atomizer. Read more about Jardins de Bagatelle

The Derby bottle (1985). To match the concept of Derby, Robert Granai planned for a virile look, and to this end he found two historical images. First, the coat of arms of Nice which depicts an eagle with outspread wings, a symbol of power dating back to the Holy Roman Empire, and second, the samurai's formidable leather-and-iron armour. Known as the eagle bottle, the original Derby design adopted the square-built, winged and brown-coloured shape of the Nice eagle, with a chunky stopper resembling the contour of an eagle's head. Also, the metal stopper followed the lines of the samurai helmet's bronze antlers, while the bottle itself had the lamellae typical of body armour. The eagle bottle was in 1993 replaced by the "Habit Rouge" bottle before the fragrance was reissued in the Parisienne bee bottle. Derby is now sold in the wood-framed Parisien bottle. Read more about Derby

The Eau de Toilette bottle (1988). When in 1988 Guerlain launched Eau de Toilette versions of Vetiver and Habit Rouge, Robert Granai created a new bottle, simply called the Eau de Toilette bottle. For a number of years, it was also used for Derby and Mouchoir de Monsieur. The bottle has mainly been associated with Habit Rouge, as Vetiver got a new bottle design in 2000. In 2011, Vetiver moved back into the classic Eau de Toilette bottle, which in 2016 has become the bottle for Héritage, L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, and Guerlain Homme as well. Read more about the Eau de Toilette bottle

The Samsara bottle (1989). The deep red, gold-trimmed Samsara bottle is one of Robert Granai's most elegant Guerlain designs, its curves drawn from the ancient statue of a Khmer dancer's waist and neck, and the stopper shaped like a Buddha's closed eyelid. The 30 ml Parfum presentation was nothing short of majestic: the bottle voluminous and heavy and cushioned on a red velvet bed inside a Chinese-style lacquer box. In 2016, the original Samsara Parfum bottle is being replaced by the standard quadrilobe bottle. Read more about Samsara

The Héritage bottle (1992). For the Héritage bottle, by far Guerlain's most refined and elaborate for a men's scent, Robert Granai wanted a reassuring, solid look, an expression of durability. As to illustrate the Guerlain motto of persistence and change, he let himself be inspired by Foucault's pendulum which hangs in the dome of the Panthéon in Paris. The bottle's stopper could be both the brass weight and the hemispherical roof, while the glass facets reflect the pendular movement lines as well as the Panthéon's impressive columns. It has also been noted that the architectural design incorporates the wedge-shape of a keystone, the stone piece that sits at the apex of a masonry vault allowing it to bear the weight of the building. In 2016, the Héritage bottle is replaced by the classic "Habit Rouge" bottle, featuring a wooden cap that matches the exclusive Parisien line. Read more about Héritage

The Champs-Elysées bottle (1996). The Champs-Elysées bottle was designed like a walk along Paris' so-called Axe Historique, the vista to the west seen through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel near the Louvre. As with many Guerlain bottles, the geometry of the shape is simultaneously suggestive of a woman's figure. I.M. Pei's controversial glass pyramid inside Louvre's courtyard is the starting point for the base of the bottle. As one passes through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde, the Obelisk from Luxor comes into view. The top of the obelisk is echoed in the triangular shape of the bottle's base. Travelling past the Marly horses at the gateway to the Champs-Elysées boulevard, one will eventually come to the head office of Maison Guerlain at no.68 on the right. The vanishing point of the boulevard is crowned by the grand Arc de Triomphe whose flat top level is the inspiration for the lid of the bottle. In 2016, the original Champs-Elysées Parfum bottle is being replaced by the standard quadrilobe bottle. Read more about Champs-Elysées

The Coriolan bottle (1998). The Coriolan bottle was based on warrior equipment, namely a nineteenth century copper gunpowder flask. The fragrance later lived in the Parisienne bee bottle for a couple of years until it changed to the wood-framed Parisien bottle. The fragrance is now discontinued. Read more about Coriolan

The Aqua Allegoria bottle (1999). For the Aqua Allegoria line, Robert Granai managed to transform the historic bee bottle into a new design that is both simple and exquisite, with a gilded honeycomb wrapped around the bottle shoulders and the Guerlain bee symbol engraved into the top of the cap. The Aqua Allegoria bottle is still in production, although the spray mechanism, label and box have been adjusted several times. Read more about Aqua Allegoria

The Vetiver bottle (2000). Vetiver was originally sold in the same bottle as Habit Rouge. In 2000, a totally different look for Vetiver was advertised, with a modern bottle, still by Robert Granai, a greener juice colour, and a youthful packaging. The bottle was shaped like stacked irregular slats of clear and frosted glass, meant to symbolize the many layers of a man's life. As of 2011, Guerlain has moved back Vetiver into the classic Eau de Toilette bottle. The bottle's metal cap is in 2016 replaced by a coloured faux wood design. Read more about Vetiver

The Mahora bottle (2000). The Mahora bottle was Robert Granai's quirkiest of all his designs for Guerlain, a humorous presentation as vibrant and shining with native folklore as the Mahoran lifestyle itself. The EdP bottle had the phallic form of a pagan totem with an amber talisman on top. The front gold plate appeared like a tribal necklace, and if you looked through the glass bottle from the back, you found "Mahora" inscribed in the metal. The smaller disc-shaped Parfum bottle reprised some of the elements and had a glass wand for application. The Mahora fragrance is famous as Guerlain's biggest miss and was deleted from the catalogue painfully early. In 2006, it was reissued under the name Mayotte in the Parisienne line, but also Mayotte is now discontinued. Read more about Mahora
(September 2016)

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