Sensing the past: sensory stimuli in nineteenth-century depictions of Roman baths

Giacomo Savani

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Roman baths were sensorial spaces par excellence, where bathers engaged in a profoundly synaesthetic experience. This chapter investigates how European visual artists reinterpreted the rich sensorium of these buildings in the second half of the nineteenth century. I focus on the works of Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856) and Sir Lawrence Alma‑Tadema (1836–1912), deploying Yannis Hamilakis’ concept of sensorial assemblage to illuminate the rich, diachronic contamination between materiality, memory and imagination that underpin their creative engagement with the past. I also explore the perception of familiarity or alterity that certain smells triggered in the memory of contemporary viewers, discussing the way these artists used olfactory stimuli to bridge the gap between past and present.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe smells and senses of antiquity in the modern imagination
EditorsAdeline Grand-Clément, Charlotte Ribeyrol
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781350169739, 9781350169753
ISBN (Print)9781350169722, 9781350251632
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameImagines - Classical receptions in the visual and performing arts


  • Neoclassical art
  • Roman baths
  • Sensorial assemblages
  • Ancient smells


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