This article is an investigation into the entanglements between sensorial metaphors, the aesthetics of aging, and the ethics of preservation in the writings of John Ruskin (1819–1900) and Alois Riegl (1858–1905). Setting out to trace notions of olfaction in the writings of these founding fathers of preservation, we find diametrically opposed arguments regarding the evaluation of the senses and the aesthetics of aging, that nevertheless culminate in similar preservationist norms. Contrary to the Nietzschean metaphorical image of “an antiquarian enveloping himself in a moldy smell,” both authors strive to justify their normative claims in terms of an ethics of vitality. Against the backdrop of these insights, the article concludes by asking what these founding figures might have thought of the contemporary reconstructions of smells, odors, and perfumes in old buildings.


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pp. 102-117
Launched on MUSE
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