All information page results


All collection results
Outdated Browser Detected

Our website has detected that you are using an outdated browser. Using your current browser will prevent you from accessing features on our website. An upgrade is not required, but is strongly recommended to improve your browsing experience on our website.


About the exhibition Fleeting – Scents in Colour

Our new exhibition Smell the Art: Fleeting – Scents in Colour will be on view until and including 29 August 2021.

Have you ever wondered what an Amsterdam canal smelled like 400 years ago? It would have been pretty grim: excrement, waste materials and all kinds of filth were dumped into the water. The same water that poorer housewives then did their laundry in. Personal and general hygiene were far from what they are today. People were convinced that foul smells could harm their health. Luckily there were all kinds of tricks for disguising unpleasant smells and situations. Wealthy women carried a pomander on a chain, then an expensive fashion accessory. As well as looking good, this also meant they could also protect themselves against dangerous odours.

vervlogen geuren in kleuren mauritshuis

In some 17th-century artworks the suggestion of smell is so strong that you can almost imagine yourself in the moment. Do you experience a painting differently if you can also literally smell the work as you look at it?  

The exhibition Fleeting – Scents in Colour is a voyage of discovery that will inspire visitors to experience art from a new perspective. Via the various scent dispensers, they can smell a clean linen cupboard, bleaching fields, ambergris, myrrh and of course the foul-smelling canals.

About the exhibition

In the exhibition Fleeting – Scents in Colour you can smell the 17th century. As well as wonderful artworks where the colours jump from the surface and the wonderful scent almost comes to greet you, there are also paintings and drawings where you’d rather hold your nose. As well as seeing the paintings, you will also experience them with your sense of smell. Via (covid-safe) dispensers, visitors will be able to experience various smells represented in the art, both fragrant and foul. The exhibition explores the portrayal of smell and odour in 17th-century art, the scents of the past, the role of scent in stories, the suggestion of scent in artworks, as well as sensory perception. Even though scent is the subject of the exhibition and there will be all kinds of smells to enjoy, it is the artworks above all that carry the story.

tentoonstelling geur vervlogen zaalfoto 2 mauritshuis
tentoonstelling vervlogen geur kleur mauritshuis zaalfoto
tentoonstelling vervlogen zaalfoto geur 1

Exhibition themes

The exhibition considers the portrayal of scent in art from both an art-historical angle and a more general historical perspective. The almost 50 paintings, drawings, print and objects tell us more about themes including scent, health and hygiene. For example, in the 17th century it was believed that putrid and foul smells were harmful to health and should be suppressed with other disease-repelling fragrances. 

We also learn more about the role of scent in religion. Scent plays a role in all manner of Catholic rituals, and the divine can reveal itself by means of perfumed smoke. During the Reformation, Protestantism dispensed with the sensory acknowledgement of faith and placed the word of God at the heart of worship.

tentoonstelling vervlogen geuren in kleuren de anatomische les geur mauritshuis Michiel and Pieter van Mierevelt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Willem van der Meer, 1617. Canvas, 144 x 198 cm. Museum Prinsenhof, Delft

werk tentoonstelling vervlogen geur mauritshuis Jan van der Heyden, View of the Oudezijds Voorburgwal with the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, c.1670. Panel, 41.4 x 52.3 cm. Mauritshuis, The Hague

Another theme is scents inside and outdoors. Various works offer us a direct glimpse of the 17th-century landscape of smell, both inside and outside the home.

The exhibition also explores the theme of new aromas from far-off lands. Thanks to extensive overseas trade, new tastes and smells from other parts of the world were increasingly within reach and wildly popular. The average Dutch citizen had no idea of the darker side of this trade: exploitation, oppression and violence often preceded the moment they entered the shop to purchase these new delights.

Exhibition preview

In the video below, the exhibition concept is explained in more depth and the role of scent in 17th-century artworks is explored. Watch to gain a better idea of what lies in store in the exhibition.



Unique Fragrance Box and virtual see-and-smell tour

Geurbox en digitale rondleiding bij tentoonstelling Vervlogen in het Mauritshuis

Experience the exhibition Fleeting – Scents in Colour from home! For those of you who can not wait any longer for the museums to reopen, we created the first interactive virtual see-and-smell tour in the world!

During the tour, Dutch culinary journalist Joël Broekaert and Mauritshuis curator Ariane van Suchtelen take you as a viewer digitally behind the closed doors of the exhibition for a fantastic tour. View ánd smell the beautiful paintings of the exhibition. The fragrance box contains scent pumps which allow you to smell the scents at the same time that they appear in the tour.

The fragrance box is now available in our webshop and costs € 20.

Made possible by

This exhibition was developed and made by the Mauritshuis, in collaboration with the following individuals and parties:

Main Partners

Nationale Nederlanden

Exhibition Partners


vrienden mauritshuis

prins bernhard cultuur fonds

Dutch Masters


gravin van bylandt stichting

Stay in touch