JK Huysmans on Perfume as Art

From Against Nature (À Rebours) (1884):

For years now [Des Esseintes] had been an expert in the science of perfumes; he maintained that the sense of smell could procure pleasures equal to those obtained through sight or hearing, each of the senses being capable, by virtue of a natural aptitude supplemented by an erudite education, of perceiving new impressions, magnifying these tenfold and co-ordinating them to compose the whole that constitutes a work of art. After all, he argued, it was no more abnormal to have an art that consisted of picking out odorous fluids than it was to have other arts based on a selection of sound waves or the impact of variously coloured rays on the retina of the eye; only, just as no one, without a special intuitive faculty developed by study, could distinguish a painting by a great master from a paltry daub, or a Beethoven theme from a tune by Clapisson, so no one, without a preliminary initiation, could help confusing at first a bouquet created by a true artist with a potpourri concocted by a manufacturer for sale in grocers’ shops and cheap bazaars.

Huysmans, Joris-Karl (2003-05-01). Against Nature (Penguin Classics) (p. 105). Penguin UK. Kindle Edition.

Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase
Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)
Date: 1890 Medium: Oil on canvas Dimensions: 25 5/8 x 21 1/4 in. (65.1 x 54 cm) Classification: Paintings Credit Line: The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1993, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002

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