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Mauritshuis exhibition allows visitors to smell the artworks

The Mauritshuis, an art museum in The Hague, is putting on an exhibition where visitors can smell the artworks called ‘Fleeting – Scents in Colour’.

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mauritshuis scent smell exhibition

Fleeting – Scents in Colour will explore smells in 17th century art, from the Amsterdam canals in a piece by Jan van der Heyden, to the clean laundry in a painting by Pieter de Hooch.

“In Abraham Mignon’s Still Life of Flowers and Fruit from 1670, the suggestion of scent is so obvious that it can only be that the painter wanted the viewer to smell something,” said Mauritshuis.

“Mignon combined a rich abundance of flowers with overripe fruit that ants and other insects have descended on, attracted by the sweet scent of the melon that has been cut open.”

The Mauritshuis’ exhibition will feature real scents, shared using scent dispensers. These include the smell of clean linen, bleaching fields, ambergris, myrrh and the rancid canals.

Fleeting – Scents in Colour

The exhibition also looks at the portrayal of smell and odour in art from the 17th century, as well as the role of scent in stories and sensory perception.

It boasts nearly 50 paintings, drawings, prints and objects. These will all educate visitors about scent, health and hygiene in the 17th century.

“There was reason enough in the 17th century to perfume anything and everything: the body, clothes, accessories and all kinds of objects,” said Mauritshuis.

“It was believed that vile smells made you ill and therefore needed to be suppressed with disease-repelling fragrances.”

Smell art by 17th century painters

mauritshuis scent smell exhibition

Fleeting – Scents in Colour depicts the role of scent in religion, and inside and outside the home. It also showcases 17th century aromas from across the world.

In addition, Fleeting – Scents in Colour is available to enjoy from home with a digital tour and fragrance box, which will be available online soon.

The Mauritshuis and Nationale-Nederlanden previously brought one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings to life in augmented reality (AR).

Fleeting – Scents in Colour runs from when the Mauritshuis reopens through August 29.

Images: Mauritshuis

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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