(b. 1597, Antwerpen, d. 1637, Antwerpen)

Allegory of the Five Senses

Oil on canvas, 207 x 288 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent

Art-lovers in the 16th and 17th centuries were very fond of emblematic paintings, although the content of a work of art often served merely as a pretext for a display of painterly ingenuity. The Allegory of the Five Senses by Theodore Rombouts fits this pattern perfectly. Each man in this painting symbolizes one of the five senses. The old man with glasses and a mirror represents Sight. The chitarrone, a type of bass lute, stands for Sound. The blind man is symbolic of the sense of Touch. The jolly man with a glass of wine in his hand portrays Taste, and the elegant young man with a pipe and garlic, Smell. The garlic, wine, music and mirror refer to the fallacy of sensory perception and the transience of life.

The Ghent bishop, Antoon Triest, who also owned several paintings by Dutch masters, ordered this canvas from Rombouts.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.