In Search of Lost Scents

Caro Verbeek


Kant and Hegel excluded the sense of smell from their easthetic debate. Cournot deemed smell incapable of conveying information. And Freud coined it the anti-intellectual sense par excellence. But not all important thinkers ignored our least understood and highly complex sense: Nietzsche labeled the nose our most refined instrument, and mystic Hildegard van Bingen claimed smelling was the only means of truly knowing God.
Smell has gained a lot amount of attention in the academic world over the past 20 years, both as a subject and as a methodological tool. Some historians even speak of an ‘olfactory renaissance’ (Jim Drobnick).
It is near to impossible to describe scents and they disappear over time. That is why during this intermezzo spoken words, images and reconstructed historical scents will merge to overcome this explanatory gap.
What did it mean to die in an ‘odor of sanctity’? What did it smell like? Why did people carry ‘pomanders’ for hundreds of years ? The answers will demonstrate that sensory paradigms have shifted dramatically.
In addition the audience will find out why the ancient Romans ate perfumes by experiencing the actual difference between smelling and tasting and even get acquainted with often ignored third chemical sense.