Platform for Research through the Arts and Sciences

Cedar, sulphuric acid, Brazilian coffee and now classic perfumes: they are part of our volatile art historical heritage, as they were presented as autonomous art at the first half of the 20th century.


The embedded research project ‘In Search of Scents Lost’ investigates the role of olfaction during the avant-garde, chronologically and geographically stretching from 1913 (first futurist manifesto on smell) to 1959 (final surrealist exhibition featuring a perfume). Most of these aromatic interventions were meant to provoke, enhance an ephemeral or even synaesthetic experience, or to create specific (estranging) atmospheres, all in line with the avant-garde’s anti-intellectual, anti-institutional endeavors.


At the core of this project are several olfactory reconstructions and interventions based on written art historical sources and chemical analysis (gaschromatography). In collaboration with the fragrance industry and several heritage institutions, Caro Verbeek will diffuse (or put ‘on sniff’) these art historical scents and study their effects, ideally leading to the awareness of a ‘period’ nose.


Supported by: NWW, VU, IFF, Royal Academy of Arts


Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Inger Leemans, Prof. Dr. Frits Scholten, Prof. Dr. Katja Kwastek, Bernardo Fleming (IFF, partner fragrance industry), Pauline Kintz (Rijksmuseum, partner, education department Rijksmuseum)