Erika Wicky

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline Art History
Postdoctoral fellow - Fonds national pour la recherche scientifique (Belgium)

Research project

Olfaction and 19th-Century French Visual Culture


My research is dedicated to the conceptions, uses, practices and representations of olfaction in 19th-century France. It aims to understand the specific issues concerning the sense of smell in relationship to the world at this time. From the perspective of cultural history and historical anthropology of the senses, this research analyses the knowledge of, practices in relation to, objects associated with, techniques, lexicon and representations of olfaction in order to highlight the main conceptions prevailing in 19th-century France. During my residence, I expect to deepen knowledge into specific aspects of this broad research project by focusing on the visual representations of olfaction.


Through a series of case studies, this project seeks to understand the specific issues of visual culture in the expression and diffusions of the conceptions attached to the sense of smell, including its strong links with realism. Analysing 19th-century French visual culture from the perspective of the sense of olfaction will allow us to understand further the visual strategies developed in order to represent invisible smells. This project will lead to studying representations of material signs of invisible smells, such as thick smoke, but also objects of decorative art associated with perfume often depicted especially in orientalist and historicist painting. But all these representations of olfaction not only express their contemporary views on olfaction, they also contribute to building these conceptions in a specific way. Analysing visual culture from the perspective of olfactory studies will allow us to take a fresh look at well-known images. It will also emphasize the importance of less well-known material such as academic paintings or a large number of advertising images.


This research will also take place in the context of a broader reflection on the historiography of the senses. Until now, olfactory studies, a new field of research, essentially analysed textual sources such as literature. In fact, finding accurate sources is one of the biggest challenges faced by historians of the senses. Thus, this research project will contribute to the historiography of the senses by showing how visual culture can be included among its sources. Moreover, this research project seeks to develop specific tools for the analysis of the iconography of olfaction in 19th-century visual culture. Connecting the decorative arts and cultural history of the time with visual interpretation, this project will provide future researchers with keys to understanding the allusions to olfaction in 19th-century visual culture. Finally, studying visual culture, and more specifically visual arts, from the perspective of smell, will allow us to draw the boundaries of a new periodization, creating alternatives to the periodization based on the history of hygiene, which has been prevalent in the history of smell since Corbin.



Erika Wicky holds a PhD in art history from the Université de Montréal, she also holds a master's degree in modern literature and a master's degree in theater studies (Bordeaux 3). Following a multidisciplinary thesis on the notion of detail (1830-1890), she devoted her first three years of postdoctoral research (UQAM) to the study of the critical reception of photographic reproductions of paintings in the XIXth century. She then studied, during a second postdoctorate (Rennes 2), the writings of the nineteenth century on the photographic landscape. As a Postdoctoral fellow (FNRS - Fonds National pour la Recherche Scientifique - Belgium) at the Université de Liège (2015-2018), she devoted herself to the Belgian writings on photography (1839-1905).
She has taught art history, historiography and the history of art criticism at the Université de Montréal and the Université du Québec à Montréal.


Selected publications


'Les parfums de l’Ancien Régime : Persistance et représentations au XIXe siècle', in M. Ganofsky & J.A. Perras (eds),  Le siècle de la légèreté : émergences d’un paradigme du XVIIIe siècle, Oxford University Studies on Enlightment, Oxford. [forthcoming]


'Perfumed Performances: The Reception of Olfactory Theatrical Devices from the Fin-de-siècle to the Present Day', in N. Wymans (ed.), Deep Time of the Theatre: Media Archaeological Approaches to Intermediality in Performance, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke. [forthcoming]


'L’œil, le goût, le flair : les compétences sensorielles du collectionneur fin-de-siècle', Sociétés & Représentations, vol. 44, 2017, pp. 151-162.


Les paradoxes du détail : voir, savoir, représenter à l’ère de la photographie, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Rennes, 2015.


'La peinture à vue de nez : la juste distance du critique d’art de Diderot à Zola', RACAR (Revue d’art canadienne / Canadian Art Review), vol. 39, n. 1, 2014, pp. 76-89.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Cultural Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Linguistics
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Collegium de Lyon
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Environmental Science