In Search of Lost Scents: The Olfactory Dimension of Futurism

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Smell has played an important–yet overlooked–rôle in Futurism, due to a dominant ocularcentric approach within academia. The inherently volatile nature of scent and a lack of a proper vocabulary has left few trails for researchers. Although sound, touch and taste have received a considerable amount of attention over the past decades, olfaction seems to be the last sensory bastion in Futurism Studies, in spite of an ‘olfactory renaissance’ in psychology, biology, anthropology, cultural history and even within art history. Scent was considered a suitable subject and an effective medium of communication by several Futurist artists, particularly F. T. Marinetti, Fedele Azari, Carlo Carrà, Bruno Munari and Bruno Sanzin. Between 1909 and 1943, olfaction and scent-related concepts played an essential rôle in a dozen of manifestos and poems and an important function in at least forty others.2In these publications, the Futurists not only demonstrated thorough knowledge of contemporary artistic and scientific developments in the realm of olfaction, but also integrated smell in their artistic, literary and political programmes. Starting in the 1920s, scents were not just discussed, but also diffused during performances, artistic banquets and in cinemas. It is also believed that Futurist toys and sculptures possessed a fragrant dimension. Many of the odours that dominated the Futurist scent-scape were not randomly selected, but had a political goal or social meaning. Furthermore, the Futurists can be seen as predecessors of present day artists working in the realm of olfaction, leaving us a valuable and volatile heritage for future exploration.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Yearbook of Futurism Studies
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 10 (2020)
EditorsGünter Berghaus
Place of PublicationBerlin; Boston
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9783110702200
ISBN (Print)9783110702088
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameYearbook of Futurism Studies
PublisherDe Gruyter
Volume10 (2020)
ISSN (Electronic)2192-029X


  • futurism
  • smell
  • art history
  • sensory history
  • marinetti
  • museology


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