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Department of History of Art

Visualising Smell in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art


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.

Lizzie's doctoral research, funded by the AHRC-Lander Studentship, is dedicated to challenging the prevailing 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 Dutch society. The research addresses how artists strove to visualise the olfactory in an array of subject matters: from scenes of foul anatomical dissections, to portraits of women adorned with fragrant pomanders.

Lizzie was the 2018–2019 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. She is the Research and Exhibition Assistant of 'Fleeting – Scents in Colour', an exhibition about smells in art at the Mauritshuis, The Hague (11 February – 29 August 2021), and co-author of the exhibition publication. Lizzie remains in the Netherlands to complete her PhD.

Photo credit: Rijksmuseum


Key publications: 
  • 'Jumping the Broom: A Common-Law Wedding Custom’s Bristling Visual Satires', in C. Rosengren, P. Sivefors, R. Wingård (eds.), Satire and the Multiplicity of Forms, 1600–1830: Textual and Graphic Transformations, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2021 (forthcoming).

  • 'Odours in Art – Depicting the Invisible';
    'Smell and Health';
    'Odours from Overseas';
    'Perfume and Books of Secrets', in A. van Suchtelen (ed.),
    Fleeting – Scents in Colour (exh. cat.), Mauritshuis, The Hague, 2021.

  • 'A Boy with Tobacco', in K. Van der Stighelen (ed.), Michaelina Wautier 1604– 1689: Glorifying a Forgotten Talent (exh. cat.), Rubenshuis and Museum aan de Stroom, Antwerp, 2018.

Pembroke College
Supervisor: Professor Jean Michel Massing
 Lizzie  Marx