The two pictural modes of Allegories of the five senses

Else Jongeneel*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    The Allegories of the five senses, a series of five panels created in collaboration by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens between 1617 and 1619, were intended for Albert of Austria and his wife Isabella of Spain, the governors of the Spanish Netherlands. The paintings which exhibit a rich collection of artworks, arms, scientific objects and naturalia, offer an idealized portrait of the archiepiscopal court, its political power and cultural aura. The series is the first representation of a private art collection in the history of Western painting. The painters have drawn inspiration from two pictorial genres, the allegory of the five senses and the cabinet painting. Whereas the five senses allegory dates back to the Early Middle Ages, the cabinet painting develops in Antwerp at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It reflects the rising prestige of painting in a significantly growing trading centre. The combination of these two pictorial modes, the emblematic and moralizing mode of sensorial allegory and the private and hedonist mode of the cabinet painting, evokes the new wind blowing through Flemish painting towards the end of the Renaissance and the changing role of art in politics and urban society.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)557-+
    Number of pages21
    JournalRevue du Nord
    Issue number416
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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