The five senses at the centre of attention at the Villa Vauban

Exhibition about taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch in painting

Allégorie des cinq sens (Huile sur toile, 1651) - Herman van Aldewereld (1628/29-1669)Until 26 June 2016, the five senses - namely taste, smell, sight, touch and hearing - will be at the centre of attention of an exhibition at the Villa Vauban in Luxembourg. The latter presents a collection of 52 paintings, printed graphics and series about the five senses in painting. They belong to the most varied and most appealing subjects of European painting.

Whereas in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the senses had rather negative connotations, being considered deceitful or as a promotion of sin, their perception changed with the increasing scientification of thought in the 17th century. The exhibition presents painting and printed graphics of the 17th to 19th centuries in the form of thematic groups of works. Many international loans from around 20 European museums have been supplemented with the collections of Villa Vauban. The artworks are divided into four big groups:

  • A first group of works concentrates on the diversity of allegorical representations of the five senses in Flemish and Dutch 17th-century painting (Cornelis de Vos, Adriaen van Ostade, Jan Miense Molenaer, Barent Fabritius, Ambrosius Francken le Jeune and Herman van Aldewereld)
  • The second group of works is dedicated to French still-life painting, blossoming since the 1620s/30s, and its approach to the theme of the five senses (Jacques Linard, Louise Moillon and Sébastien Stoskopff)
  • A third group of works approaches the five senses by way of the biblical story of the prodigal son, which is often illustrated with crowded inn scenes showing music, drinking and smoking (Simon de Vos et David Teniers le Jeune)
  • How the allegorical is gradually displaced by a narrative representation of the senses is finally shown by the fourth and largest group, consisting of paintings of the 17th to 19th centuries (Philip van Dijk,Luca Giordano, Gérard de Lairesse, Jacob Duck or Michael Sweerts)

 Moreover, the exhibition is supplemented by series of printed graphics, from engravers like Pieter Jansz. Quast or Jacob Gole. In front of Villa Vauban, the 'Garden of the Senses' (created by the municipal Service des Parcs) invites guests to see, taste, smell, feel and hear. In the museum, nine 'experience stations' (by Schloß Freudenberg, Wiesbaden) invite visitors from ages 3 to 103 to develop their senses and thinking. 

(Source: Villa Vauban)

  • Updated 18-04-2016