The Five Senses: Sight

One gallery in Seeing Nature is dedicated to Jan Brueghel the Younger’s The Five Senses series. Painted in 1625, this series is a close copy of five paintings by Brueghel’s father, Jan Brueghel the Elder (who painted the backgrounds) and Peter Paul Rubens (who painted the figures) in 1617–18, now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Each painting focuses on one of the five senses, providing a platform for visitors to consider their own encounters with nature. Today we focus on Sight.


Jan Brueghel the Younger, The Five Senses: Sight, c. 1625. Oil on panel, 27 5/8 x 44 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Jan Brueghel the Younger worked in a similar painting style to his father, and followed his father’s practice of depicting art galleries of both existing and imaginary collections. The painting Sight was most important—the foundation for art and science, making possible everything from sculpture and painting to celestial navigation, measurement, and mapping the globe.

Sight shows how art collections reflect both the wealth and the learning of their owners. It is a fitting allusion to the current owner of the painting, Mr. Allen, as well as the history of The Phillips Collection.

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