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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Djedi c1926

Djedi: Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1926 and introduced in France, it was finally released in the United States in 1928.

The advertisement of the day noted that the perfume was a special presentation created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Guerlain. It was housed inside of a Baccarat flacon.


The inspiration for the perfume was ancient Egypt, as was common for perfumes in the 1920s with the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. Beautiful, strange and austere ancient Egypt, with its mysterious legendary Egyptian magician Djedi, the magician who Khufu consulted when planning the layout of his pyramid, who also supposedly could bring the dead back to life as told in the ancient Westcar Papyrus.

Fragrance Composition:

So what does it smell like? It is classified as a leathery chypre fragrance for women.
  • Top notes: aldehyde, lily of the valley, bergamot
  • Middle notes: jasmine, rose, orris, vetiver, animal notes
  • Base notes: amber, oakmoss, and musk

One reviewer compared it to Judith Muller’s Bat Sheba perfume from the 1960s. Author Luca Turin called Djedi a “tremendous animalic vetiver”, whilst perfumer Roja Dove described it as “the driest perfume of all time.”

The New Yorker, 1928:
“And because no one in this frivolous business can keep away from France very long, this particular tantara of trumpets announces a new Guerlain perfume, conveniently named Djedi, which might mean almost anything. Any perfume of Guerlain’s is an event to those who know, and this is as distinctive as the others, although it is a little strong for my taste, which is ultra-conservative for this line. The prevailing odor is a sort of lemony flavor, with a mysterious incense aroma as an apparent background. This is as accurately as I can describe it. Since every good perfume causes violent emotions of adoration or doubt according to the individual, I can only advise you to sniff for yourself. And well worth sniffing, since this firm does nothing banal. 
Old Favorite Department: While we are on the Guerlain subject, I might as well mention that A Travers Champs, a perfume little known because it is rather musky until it dries, is still, to my mind, ideal for the taileur. And, second, nothing could make the bath a greater luxury than those huge soap bowls, scented with geranium, rose, violet, and other garden odors. Expensive at first, but lasting forever.”

American Druggist, 1929:
"Djedi perfume which is described as an odor striking a modern note both in scent and package. It too is a leader. "

The Bottle

The Djedi bottle is actually a modified version of the 'biscuit shaped' bottle from 1916. Presented in a flacon by Cristalleries de Baccarat design # 598, known as the ‘Pourdreur’ style bottle, designed by Georges Chevalier. It was available in the following sizes: 60ml, 125ml and 250ml.

It was also available in the Goutte flacon (eau de toilette). I believe it was also housed in the Guerre (parfum) and the Borne (parfum) flacons during the wartime years of the1940s. For a rare and special presentation, it was housed in the the Baccarat quadrilobe flacon (parfum) also in the 1940s.

photo from style.ru

Flacon Goutte, c1920s-1950s

Fate of the Fragrance:

Djedi debuted at $25 an ounce, but by 1932, the same bottle sold for only $3.95 an ounce.

Djedi was still listed for sale and may have been sold up until the 1950s. It was still being sold in 1953. Guerlain registered for a US trademark for Djedi on March 6,1928 and renewed it again on March 6,1948. It was discontinued sometime afterwards.

Djedi was not part of Guerlain's classic range, but for its 70th anniversary in 1996, a true copy of the original 60ml model was issued as a limited edition of only 1000, available on in Paris, it sold out in less than a week.

The Westcar Papyrus

The Westcar Papyrus, housed in the Berlin museum, is a fragmentary ancient Egyptian text containing a cycle of five stories about marvels performed by priests and magicians. Named for Henry Westcar, who acquired the document in 1824/1825 under unknown circumstances, each of these tales is being told at the court of the Pharaoh Khufu (r. 2589-2566 B.C) by his sons. The tales are believed to have originated some time in the 12th dynasty of the Middle Kingdom (ca. 20th century BC).

"... the text does seem corrupted, if you ask me. There are lots of weirdnesses in this text which might indicate that a child was learning in school and attempting to copy it. The handwriting for one thing is puerile. There also seem to be places where the person writing it has left something out."-- Geoff Graham

The setting is in the Fourth Dynasty and Pharaoh Khufu's sons are amusing their father by telling tales of magic. Prince Khafra told the first tale, then Djadjaemankh told the second, and finally, Prince Hordedef stood and spoke. Instead of a tale of the past, this prince spoke about what he knew of his own time.

"...But there is a man, your Majesty, of your own time but unknown to you, who is a great magician."

His Majesty said, "What is this Hordedef my son?"

Prince Hordedef replied, "There is a commoner, Djed-djedi is his name, who lives at Djed-djed-Sneferu. He is a man of one hundred and ten years; every day he eats five hundred loaves of bread, a haunch of ox is his meat, and he drinks one hundred jugs of beer as well. He knows how to reattach a severed head . He is also said to be able to make wild lions so obedient that the animal would follow him with a cord dragging on the ground. Furthermore, this Djedi has knowledge of the number of Iput in the wenet-sanctuary of Thoth.”

The pharaoh spent a good deal of time to seek for these chambers, for he planned to build something similar to his horizon. Wishing to model his own tomb on that of the secret rooms in the Temple of Thoth, Khufu ordered his son to bring the magician to him.

After a long journey, Hordedef managed to reach the magician. Plying him with offers of delicacies and all good things, Djed-djedi agreed to go to the court of Khufu with his family and collection magical spell papyri.

"Djed-djedi, why is it that I have not seen you before?"

Djed-djedi answered, "When one is summoned, one comes, Oh Sovereign, may you live, prosper, and be healthy. I have been called and I have come."

His Majesty asked, "Is it really true, this talk of your knowing how to reattach a severed head?"

Djed-djedi said, "Yes, it is I who know, Oh Sovereign, my lord, may you live, prosper, and be healthy."

Khufu then ordered a prisoner brought, thinking to lop off his head and see Djed-djedi's magic. Protesting, the magician said that he could not sacrifice humans for his magic. Instead, they found a goose Djed-djedi could work his magic upon.

The goose was placed on the west side of the courtyard with the head on the east. Then Djed-djedi recited his magic spells and the goose began waddling and the head moved also. When they had approached each other they joined and the goose stood up honking. The another bird was brought to him and he did to it likewise. His Majesty had an ox brought to him and its head was made to fall upon the earth. Again, Djed-djedi said his words of magic and the ox arose. Then he made a lion follow along behind him with its leash trailing on the earth.

After this display, Khufu realised that maybe the rumour about the magician were true.

Now the king says: “It is said that you know the number of Iput inside the wenet-sanctuary of Thoth. Now?”

Djedi replies: “May you be praised, oh sovereign, my lord! I don't know their number. But I know where they can be found.”

Khufu asks: “Where is it?”

Djedi answers: “There is a box of scrolls, made of flint, which is stored in a room called ‘archive’ at Heliopolis.”

The king orders: “Take that box!”

Pressing the magician further, Djed-djedi told the pharaoh that it could only be brought to him by the eldest of the triplets, who were still in the belly of Raddjedet, wife of a wab priest of Ra. These children, the magician prophesied, would inherit the kingship of the land of Egypt.

Trying to placate the pharaoh as his heart had grown heavy at the words, Djed-djedi told him that his son, and his son's son would rule before a child of Raddjedet. Asking when the woman was to give birth, Djed-djedi told the pharaoh that she would bear her children on the 15th day of the first month of winter.

His Majesty said, "It is then that the sand banks of the canal will be dry! I would have crossed over myself to see the temple of Ra, Lord of Sahbu."

"Then I will make four cubits of water over the sand banks so you can cross," said Djed-djedi.

Djed-djedi consented to stay with Prince Hordedef, until the appointed time.

Djedi appears only in the fourth story of the Westcar Papyrus - there is no archeological or historical evidence that he existed. Nevertheless he is object of great interest for historians and Egyptologists, since his magic tricks are connected to later cultural perceptions of the personality of king Khufu. Djedi is described as a commoner of extraordinary age (110), endowed with magical powers and talented in making prophecies.

Although this trick is probably a fable, it would be the first recorded instance of what we now know as the sawing the victim in half trick. For his reward Djedi is said to have been invited to move into the palace where he was offered his standard daily extraordinary diet, enhanched to palace standards: a portion an ox, a thousand loaves of bread, a hundred jugs of beer, and a hundred bunches of onions. He was also offered a special tomb among his relatives.

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