Faded scents in colors

Faded scents in colors. Exhibition Mauritshuis

Can the life of the seventeenth century be captured in scents?? What was the relationship between smell and health, between smell and religion? The Mauritshuis answers these questions in the exhibition Faded – Scents in Colors.

An exhibition to see for sure!

Texhibition on sweet perfumes and terrible smells in the 17th century

Scents have a direct impact on our minds. They penetrate to the deepest layers of our (sub)consciousness. The exhibition Vervlogen –scents in colors is about the representation of scent and smell in Dutch and Flemish art of the seventeenth century, about the senses, about scents of the past and about the aromatic connotations of works of art. Smell is intangible, but perceptible through smell.

Fragrant flowers and perfumes, smelly canals and malodorous body odors, new smells from the distant world (spices, tobacco, coffee, tea), sickening odors, the vanished smells of bleaching fields, old crafts and more.

Questions about scent

Can life in the seventeenth century be captured in scents?? What was the relationship between smell and health, between smell and religion? What we see in the works of art?

Questions about smell, perception and imagination form the guiding thread of this quest which hopes to offer a different perspective on the art of the time.

Faded scents in colors in Mauritshuis in The Hague

Since February 11, 2021, the Mauritshuis presents the exhibition Vervlogen – scents in colors. When the museums can reopen, visitors will be able to smell the fresh clean laundry in an interior by Pieter de Hooch, summer and winter perfumes in silver 17th-century pomanders, as well as the hideously smelly Amsterdam canals in a cityscape by Jan van der Heyden.

There really is something to smell

Because there is really something to smell in the exhibition; with (corona-proof) dispensers the visitor can sniff various scents from the art – fragrant and smelly.

See and read

On February 23 I was able to visit the exhibition online during a press meeting, for which I was sent two dispersers of scents at home. This allowed me to smell the scent associated with paintings from home, and I received from Publisher Waanders & the Art the accompanying book Vervlogen- geuren in kleuren.

Online press conference:

During the online press conference, curator Ariane van Suchtelen gave an online tour of the exhibition. We were shown around the paintings from the 17th century, where perception, and in this case smell, comes first.

With several paintings, you can thus perceive the scent that matches the painting itself. For example with the painting by Jan van de Heyden. The painting shows the Amsterdam cityscape. He shows the buildings in detail, but also the activity of the townspeople. The small wooden building nailed to the bridge is a privy: a public toilet that looks directly onto the canal.

Next to it, a street sweeper sweeps the horse manure in a heap while d women do their laundry in the dirty water. For these people, this smell, the stench of the moat was daily reality, while we no longer know this smell. Perhaps you can already imagine what it must have smelled like!

But you can also smell the scent of Pomander at the painting in question and, if you pay close attention, you will see the Pomander pass by in more paintings. Pomanders were real fashion accessories, made of unusual materials such as silver. Pomander scents spread through the nose.

As a perfume, but also to disguise foul odors.

You look at paintings in a very different way

I think the beauty of the exhibition is that it makes you look at paintings in a completely different way. See, for example, the painting Still Life with Flowers and Fruits by Abraham Mignon. You see flowers and think of the smell of flowers, but you also see fruit, rotten fruit like melon and plums that the beasts come out of.

If you see this, you automatically smell the rotting fruit as well.

Faded - scents in colors. Exhibition Mauritshuis

Or how about the painting by Pieter de Hoog- Interior with woman at a linen closet. The photo reads ‘In a spotlessly clean house, two women stand by an open linen closet – they take out the piles of linen or put them in. The shiny tile floor looks like it has just been mopped. A girl plays with her club. On the painting of Pieter de Hooch the fresh smell of the polished house and the clean laundry comes to you.

Through the opened door we get a view of the street outside. It must have smelled very different there.’

Bygone - scents in colors. Exhibition Mauritshuis

The accompanying book

Not only was the online press conference special, so was the book bygone scents in colors. The book is immediately appealing because of its beautiful cover. I naturally have a ‘slight’preference for Vintage images and this one immediately catches my eye completely. The book alone is a picture to put on the coffee table, but don't forget to read it too. The book contains 10 stories about scent.

This includes a chapter by Lizzie Mark on Scents in Works of Art- imagining the invisible. Or ‘Well Rieckend’ in the seventeenth century- on hygiene and body odors by Bianca M. du Mortier. But also what also came up in the exhibition, the City Air by Jaap Evert Abrahamse.

bygone scents in colors

Interesting stories

Besides interesting stories about our perception of smell and the beautiful photos’s of the exhibition Vervlogen- scents in Colors, you will also find in this book a book guide with scent. You can also observe the smell while looking in the book.

Opening of this exhibition

The exhibition Verloren- fragrances in colors is a must to go see. Now it was originally supposed to open on Feb. 11. Due to the extension of the corona measures, the Mauritshuis remains closed.

That's why they are busy making a digital tour where you can get a package at home with 4 dispensers of fragrances. to really perceive the fragrances. Keep an eye on the Mauritshuis website for the possibilities. The exhibition has been extended until August 29, 2021, so hopefully we can all go anyway to see and experience the exhibition for ourselves.

Visiting address

  • Square 29
  • 2511 CS The Hague
  • 070 302 3456

A book full of beautiful photographs’s

But the book Vervlogen- scents in colors is also highly recommended. It is full of wonderful stories and pictures’s. A book to enjoy browsing and discovering.

Or order from bol.com or perhaps also at local bookstores