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Lizzie Marx

Lizzie Marx

Pembroke College

Supervisor: Professor Jean Michel Massing

Piquant Perfumes and Putrid Effluvia: Visualising Smell in the Seventeenth Century Netherlands and Neighbouring Countries


Lizzie Marx completed the History of Art BA at King’s College, Cambridge, in 2014, and then worked for Art Fund, the national fundraising organisation for museums and galleries. Lizzie resumed her studies in Cambridge in 2015 to read the MPhil in History of Art at Peterhouse, funded by the Newton College Masters Studentship Scheme. She continued to work with her supervisor Jean Michel Massing exploring the imagery of proverbs. Lizzie's research covered representations of proverbs in early eighteenth century playing cards, depictions of ‘broomstick weddings’ and adages surrounding the scent of melons. It was this latter aspect of her MPhil research that introduced her to the great potential of looking at Early Modern imagery through the olfactory.

Lizzie's doctoral research, funded by the AHRC-Lander Studentship, is dedicated to challenging the accepted desensitised art historical narrative of the seventeenth century, by investigating the visual representations of the perfumed and the fetid, and exploring what meanings they held in Northern European society. The research addresses how artists and craftsmen strove to achieve the almost impossible task of visualising the olfactory in a range of media and an array of subject matters; from foul cadavers riddled with plague, to fragrant incense made from exotic ingredients.

From September 2018 – September 2019 Lizzie is working at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow.

Photo credit: Rijksmuseum