Manet’s bar scent collection

Amber, Barbara, Hannah, Kanar, Lily, Lily, Mimi and Remi, ages 16–18
In collaboration with perfumer Sarah McCartney

Aromatic mixed media (contains red mandarin essential oil)

Imagine yourself in the place of the barmaid. What would you be able to smell? The group of young people who devised this artwork collaborated with perfumer Sarah McCartney from 4160 Tuesdays, to build a scent profile for Manet’s Bar. Research was divided into six areas: the barmaid herself, the man in the reflection, the sticky bar, the drinks, the candied mandarins (a luxury of the time) and the crowd. The young people smelled ingredients in front of the painting before mixing scents in lab-like conditions. They recreated scents from the 1880s, from the synthetic violets used in women’s perfume to less pleasant smells such as unwashed clothes and cigar smoke.

The purpose of the artwork is to make the original painting accessible and enjoyable to different groups of people participating in the Courtauld’s Learning programmes. Our sense of smell can evoke powerful memories and personal connections.