BRUEGHEL, Jan the Elder
(b. ca. 1568, Bruxelles, d. 1625, Antwerpen)
The Sense of Sight1618
Oil on panel, 65 x 109 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Jan 'Velvet' Brueghel was the most gifted painter of the Flemish school after Rubens. A painter of small pictures, his curiosity was aroused by a wide variety of natural objects - flowers, fruit, landscapes - and by human activity, ranging from peasants working in the fields to the mania of a collector.
In this painting, which belongs to a series representing the Five Senses, Sight is shown in the form of an art and wonder chamber, as a kind of walk through a long gallery flooded by sunlight through its covered skylight windows, so that light is shown as the physical equivalent of visual perception. In the foreground a woman, as an allegory of 'visus' (sight), is sitting at a round table, somnolently looking at a painting. Sight, as one of the five senses, also includes astronomical implements such as the telescope and the astrolabe.
The painting was executed in collaboration with Rubens, who painted the allegorical personifications on all panel of this series Five Senses.