A (historical) synaesthetic scent wheel

My latest hobby is creating scent wheels based on my PhD research into (art) historical scents and vocabularies. We all know how hard it is to describe scents. Other senses and artistic domains allow us speak about the invisible and intangible, in terms of tactile, gustatory and visual phenomena. And surprisingly many of us instantly understand the difference between a cold and a warm scent, between a smooth and a rough one, or even a red or a green smell. And even if there is no consensus, using labels enables us to imagine scents or to ‘olfactorize’ them more easily.

How it works

The inner ring is divided into the external senses of seeing, hearing, touching and tasting and the internal sense called ‘proprioception’ (indicating balance, weight, etc.).

The second ring divides the sensory domains more precisely. For example hearing is divided into music and the more general sound.

In the layer around it, descriptors like ‘blue’ and ‘round’ can be found. I also added some smell related phenomena such as ‘smound’ (smell and sound), invented in the 19th century by Septimus Piesse and ‘Geruchshelligkeit’ or ‘smellbrightness’, a term that was invented in 1932 by Von Hornbostel.

In the outer circle I put references to the literature in which I encountered the descriptors.

Besides helping us to translate scents into language, many of these words indicate that seperating the senses might not be representative of how they are organised in reality. Our senses rarely operate isolatedly and influence one another all the time.

Please enjoy and let me know if you have different categories by sending me a message at caro@caroverbeek.nl

This is some of the literature I used:

Azari, F. (1920), “Milano-Montecarlo in direttissimo Pullman”.

Baudelaire, C. (1857), “Correpondences”.

Carrà, C. (1913), “La pittura dei suoni, rumori, odori”.

Hornbostel, von E.M. (1932), Über Geruchshelligkeit, in Pflugers Arhiv für die Gesamten Physiologie, pp. 517 – 538.

Huxley, A. (1932), Brave New World.

Marinetti, F.T. (1932), “Ritratto olfattivo di una donna”

Marinetti, F.T. (1932), La cucina futurista.

Marinetti, F.T. (1932), “Paesaggio di odori del mio cane-lupo”.

Marinetti , F.T. (1933), F.T. “Teatro totale per masse”, 1933

Montesquiou, R. de (1900), Pays des aromates.

Piesse, S.,The Art of Perfumery, 1857

Sanzin, B. (1942), Fiori d’Italia.

Valentinelli, E. (ca. 1916), “L’arte degli odori”. 

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