Inventory number
Brueghel “the Elder”, Jan
Sight and Smell
Ca. 1620
176 cm x 264 cm
On display
Colección Real (Real Alcázar, Madrid, Pieça grande ante de el dormitorio de su magd. que es donde cena en el quarto bajo de verano, 1636, s.n.; Palacio de El Pardo, Madrid, 1674, nº 73-74; Palacio de El Pardo, sala de los retratos, 1701, nº 120; Palacio de El Pardo, pieza séptima, 1747, nº 58; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, paso de tribuna y trascuartos, 1772, nº 916; Palacio Nuevo, pieza de trucos, 1794, nº 916; Palacio Nuevo, pieza de trucos, 1814-1818, nº 916)

Two allegorical figures allude to the two senses presented here. Smell does so to some flowers he receives from a cupid while Sight looks at his reflection in a mirror held by another cupid. Everything painted around these figures alludes to those two senses. The civet cat represents unpleasant odors while the dog represents a fine sense of smell. The magnifying glass symbolizes physical sight while spiritual vision is represented by paintings such as The Healing of the Blind.

Brueghel displays his capacity to depict objects and to faithfully render original textures. He also uses this occasion to present a complete gallery of paintings, a customary subject among Flemish painters.

Northern painters often collaborated on a single work, and this is singularly true here, where Brueghel was accompanied by Gerard Seghers, Frans Fracken "the Younger" and Joost de Momper, who painted many of the elements making up this composition.

This piece is paired with the allegory of Taste, Hearing and Touch (P01404). Both arrived in Madrid in 1623 for the decoration of the Torre de la Reina at the Alcázar Palace.

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