Women with a paint brush

Judith Leyster. Self-Portrait, c.1630. Oil on canvas, Unframed: 74.6 × 65.1 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, 1949.6.1. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, 1400-1800

On Now until July 1, 2024

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Admission is always FREE for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders & Indigenous Peoples. Learn more.


Introducing new artistic heroines, Making Her Mark brings together more than 230 objects from royal portraits to metal work, ceramics, textiles, and cabinetry, to demonstrate the many ways women contributed to the visual arts of Europe.

Featuring the work of well-known artists Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Leyster, Luisa Roldán, Rosalba Carriera, Rachel Ruysch, and Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun alongside female artisanal collectives, talented amateurs, and women working in factory settings and workshops, the exhibition invites us to reconsider what we think we know about European art history. 

Co-curated by Dr. Alexa Greist, AGO Curator and R. Fraser Elliott Chair, Prints & Drawings and Dr. Andaleeb Banta, BMA Senior Curator and Department Head, Prints, Drawings & Photographs, the decision to exclusively display objects made by women makes this exhibition unique, and among the first to put women makers of various levels of society in conversation with each other, across centuries and a continent, through their artworks.

Making Her Mark is co-organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Baltimore Museum of Art.


Making Her Mark - promos


This exhibition includes two multisensory experiences intended to conjure a different time and place—specifically pre-modern Europe (defined here as 1400 to 1800).

DISCLAIMER: The scent compositions in this exhibition contain ingredients that may trigger sensitivity or allergic reactions. If you choose to interact with the scent stations, please be mindful of this.

Scent Stations

In collaboration with Dr. Melanie McBride, we have designed 4 unique scent stations to accompany works and themes in the exhibition.

As you move through the exhibition, look out for this symbol:

nose icon

Making Her Mark - Multisensory Moments

Eufrasia Burlamacchi, Mary Magdalene in the initial G in Illuminated Antiphonies, vol. 5, c.1503-1515. Iron gall ink and red ink, opaque watercolour, gold leaf, and shell gold on vellum with leather binding


Located in the cloistered makers section, this is an atmospheric scent composed of period-specific and biblical aromatic materials. The scent includes resins— fragrant emissions from trees and plants—like frankincense, myrrh, and styrax. Natural aromas are layered with notes of damp stone and aged wooden pews. Much of pre-modern Europe was Catholic, and the smell of incense would have permeated cloisters and places of worship.

Eufrasia Burlamacchi, Mary Magdalene in the initial G in Illuminated Antiphonies, vol. 5, c.1503-1515. Iron gall ink and red ink, opaque watercolour, gold leaf, and shell gold on vellum with leather binding, 53.2 x 38.5 cm. On loan from the archives of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael

Anna Maria Garthwaite, Gown, textile: 1726-1728; gown: 1775-1785. Silk "lampas" brocaded with silk; linen bodice and sleeve lining


This scent responds to the popularity of florals in the 1700s, in both design and products. Synthetic animal musks (civet, deer, and ambergris) as well as ethically obtained Hyraceum (hardened excrement of the rock hyrax also called “African Stone”—the material is harvested without intruding on the species) layered with white floral perfume and citrus notes result in a dirty, funky scent that evokes the bodily odours of the woman who would have worn this dress.

Anna Maria Garthwaite, Gown, textile: 1726-1728; gown: 1775-1785. Silk "lampas" brocaded with silk; linen bodice and sleeve lining, length: 137.2 cm; waist: 55.9 cm; textile width: 53.3 cm; vertical repeat: 45.7 cm. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Museum purchase. Inv. 1951-150.1

Mademoiselle Duplessis, Snuffbox with six scenes of putti at play, c.1761–62. Gold, grisaille enamel, diamonds

Snuff Box

European women made and designed objects, like snuff boxes, to hold goods such as tobacco, an item that was forcibly extracted through colonial trade and enslaved labour. This leathery scent evokes the tingly aromatic effects of tobacco without any nicotine. Ingredients include perfumer’s tobacco and notes of warm spice, dried fruits, flowers, herbs, and rum.

Mademoiselle Duplessis, Snuffbox with six scenes of putti at play, c.1761–62. Gold, grisaille enamel, diamonds, Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.1125).

Marie Henriette Gravant, Individual Flowers


In Europe, the garden has long been associated with femininity, and pre-modern women were encouraged to focus on subjects like botany. Women artists and ceramicists took their inspiration from nature. This scent brings the garden indoors and our noses down to the earth, recalling flowers, herbs, soil, and lichen.

Marie Henriette Gravant, workshop director at Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, Individual Flowers, from 1745 onwards. Porcelain. Courtesy of Michele Beiny Harkins. Photo: Richard Goodbod

McBride describes her concept behind creating the scents for this exhibition:

Making Her Mark features four original mixed-media compositions of natural essences and synthetic aroma molecules inspired by the objects. Given the volume of natural materials in the compositions, these scents will change and evolve over time, offering a different experience to visitors over the course of the exhibition.

These scents were not created to replicate the olfactory environment of the past. Rather, they allow visitors to participate in meaning-making through aromas that are more symbolically, rather than literally, expressive of the selected works and themes in the exhibition.

Each of the four scents created for Making Her Mark serves to disrupt binaries such as the sacred and the profane, desire and disgust, dirty and clean, virtue and vice, and the subjective characterization of “good” or “bad” smells. While the aromatic materials correspond to specific themes, visitors are encouraged to reflect on their own personal associations, lived experiences, or emotional responses to the scents.

About Melanie McBride
Dr. McBride is Toronto-based educator, researcher, and founder of the Aroma Inquiry Lab at Metropolitan University’s Responsive Ecologies Lab, which is the only aroma-focused learning environment in Canada. She has led master classes on aroma learning and developed original mixed-media compositions and olfactory learning objects for educational and cultural heritage projects. She studied natural perfumery with American perfumer Mandy Aftel.

Tactile Labels:

The artists and makers in this exhibition used a unique range of materials in their practices. Like scent, touch can evoke memories, improve learning, and help us understand the skill required to work with unusual materials. Touch is an important part of cognitive development and, of the five senses, provides the most accurate knowledge of an object. There are 4 tactile labels located throughout the exhibition. Look for this symbol as you move through the space:

icon - a hand touching an object


Close-Looking: Portrait of a Youth in an Embroidered Vest

Watch curator Alexa Greist discuss Marie Victoire Lemoine’s Portrait of a Youth in an Embroidered Vest and use close-looking tools to uncover the layers of meaning behind this evocative painting.

Close-Looking: Paper filigree cabinet

Watch curator Alexa Greist discuss Sophia Jane Maria Bonnell’s and Mary Anne Harvey Bonnell’s Paper filigree cabinet on stand and use close-looking tools to reveal details about this unusual piece of furniture.

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