End 1600: Gian Paolo Feminis a travelling salesman produced a drink, Aqua Mirabilis, which according to him helped to cure all illnesses. He moves from his small town of origin (Saint Maria Maggiore which is today in the province of Novara) to Cologne, in Germany. Here Aqua Mirabilis would become Eau de Cologne.
From more than three centuries the stories of Eau de Cologne are woven between history and legend, as if a skilled dealer, every time he wanted to elaborate the history of this fragrance, cleverly mixed the cards to draw a different combination. Gian Paolo Feminis departed from the mountains with some bottles of his Aqua Mirabilis, many generations have passed before European and finally international success of Eau de cologne was reached, with an interlacement of descendents and affairs, that put to test any historian who intends to unravel this skein. There are, and have been, innumerable firms that boast the originality of the cologne water, just as there have been numerous Jean Marie Farinas manufacturing the agreeable fragrance, so much so as to doubt that a "first" Jean Marie (favourite nephew of Feminis who had been left in inheritance the formula of the Aqua Mirabilis), despite the portraits that portrayed him smiling, ever existed.
The confusion in the stories of Eau de cologne is determined by different factors:
- there was never a reporter who documented the origin and the first developments of Eau de Cologne, from its birth to 1800, the moment in which it has already been attributed with different paternities;
- in the period in which the production of Eau de Cologne became advantageous - in the Seventeen hundreds - many children of the people who had opened firms imitating the original fragrance were baptized with the name Jean Marie, feeding and creating legends as to the originality of the product, all to the advantage of the firm that distributed it;
- the armies that crossed Europe waging war in the Seventeen hundreds and at the beginning of the eighteen hundreds, besides plundering the populations of which they were undesirable guests, destroyed and disarranged the commercial registers containing the dates of establishment of the firms and their relative owners. For a long time it was therefore arduous to recognize, among the myriad of firms with the same name and producers of the same article, which really was the first one to have used the formula of Gian Paolo Feminis.
It is possible to tell the history of the Eau de Cologne, as we have succeeded in reconstructing it basing ourselves on documents of the era, through meticulous and careful historical research, analyzing the society of the time and the meteorological conditions that determined migrations and movements of whole populations: above all, it represents the most exact historical study ever carried out to date.