Conversation Piece (The Sense of Smell)

Jan Ekels the Younger (Dutch, Amsterdam 1759–1793 Amsterdam)

probably 1791
Oil on canvas
25 7/8 x 23 1/2 in. (65.7 x 59.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram L. Podell, 1981
Accession Number:
  • Catalogue Entry


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right, on dado): I.EKELS. F/Aº 17[?][1?]—

  • Provenance

    [Dr. Benedict & Co., Berlin, until 1928]; C. Waltfried (1928; his sale, Jacob Hecht, Berlin, November 13, 1928, no. 386a); ?private collection, Brumfield, Nottingham; sale, Christie's, London, July 17, 1964, no. 209, as "Taste," for 280 gns. to Houthakker; [Bernard Houthakker, Amsterdam, from 1964]; Mr. and Mrs. Bertram L. Podell, New York (until 1981)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

  • References

    J. Knoef. "Jan Ekels de Jonge (1759–1793)." Oud-Holland 45 (1928), p. 51, fig. 1, as with the dealer Dr. Benedict & Co., Berlin; calls it "Smell" and dates it 1791; states that it belongs to a series of paintings depicting the five senses [see Notes].

    J. Knoef. Tusschen rococo en romantiek: Een bundel kunsthistorische opstellen. The Hague, 1943, pp. 25–26, ill. p. 22.

    Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson. The Artist and the Theatre. Melbourne, 1955, pp. 269–70, fig. 2, under no. 42, discuss and illustrate the four known pictures in the series, identifying the work in the National Theatre as "Taste" [see Notes]; state that the MMA painting and "Hearing", from the Waltfried sale in 1928, "are now believed to be in private collections on the Continent".

    C. J. de Bruyn Kops. "Een portret van Egbert van Drielst, geschilderd door Jan Ekels de Jonge." Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 16 (June 1968), pp. 63, 66 n. 10, p. 102.

    M. L. Wurfbain et al. Catalogus van de Schilderijen en Tekeningen. Leiden, 1983, p. 129, under no. 88.

    Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 193–96, no. 44, colorpl. 44, states that it was probably painted in 1791.

  • Notes

    This picture probably depicts the sense of smell and formed part of a series of paintings representing the five senses. Three additional works from this series are known: "Hearing" (sold, Phillips, London, April 19, 1994, no. 103), "Taste" (dated 1791; Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden), and "Sight" (National Theatre, London).

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History